BioNTech said on Wednesday it would expand an ongoing clinical trial programme to develop new vaccines and patterns of administration for better protection against the dominant Omicron coronavirus variant.

The addition of cohorts to a trial programme initially unveiled in January comes as global infection numbers are on the rise and protection against infection from its established Comirnaty vaccine, co-developed with Pfizer, has waned.

Thanks to 10.3 billion euros ($11.48 billion) in net income in 2021, the German biotech firm plans to spend between 1.4 billion and 1.5 billion euros on research and development this year.

It also plans to buy back up to $1.5 billion worth of shares over two years and pay a special dividend of 486 million euro in total, or 2 euros per share.

It reiterated its 2022 vaccine revenue guidance of between 13 billion and 17 billion euros.

(Reporting by Ludwig Burger, Editing by Miranda Murray)