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CureVac gets German backing for coronavirus vaccine, but says it's independent.

The German national government will buy 300 million Euros worth of shares in drug and vaccine maker CureVac in a bid to speed development of its medicines. The company is advancing a vaccine for the novel coronavirus that uses technology similar to that of Moderna and another German drugmaker, BioNTech. 

CureVac said the investment will not give the German government exclusive rights to the vaccine. “Of course, we will supply the Federal Republic of Germany with our vaccine when it is fully developed. In general, however, our goal is to help as many people worldwide as possible,” the company stated in a question-and-answer on the transaction.

The company had been subject of media reports, which it denied, that President Donald Trump had sought to secure exclusive access to its vaccine for the U.S. Today’s announcement demonstrates how governments worldwide are becoming deeply involved in financing coronavirus vaccines and treatments, and in some cases those investments are seen as a bid to claim first rights.

CureVac was thrown into the international spotlight after its former CEO, Daniel Menichella, appeared alongside President Donald Trump at the White House. Menichella’s departure nine days later, followed by German media reports that the White House had attempted to secure exclusive access to its coronavirus vaccine, meant that the company found itself embroiled in controversy at a time when it was trying to focus on science.

While the joint press release from CureVac and the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy was full of assurances that CureVac’s vaccine would be available broadly, the government also made clear that there were national interests involved in the transaction.

Peter Altmaier, the ministry’s head, said the investment was important because “we in Germany and Europe need these essential research results and technologies.”

“With this package, we aim to secure more independence in the entire production process of medical substances and vaccines,” he said in the statement. “This investment is a first step in this direction.”

CureVac acting CEO Franz-Werner Haas said that the investment will help the company grow and expand its pipeline. But he added that the company will still maintain "full operational and strategic independence," despite the government's newfound involvement. 

The 300 million Euro infusion should give CureVac a boost, as it finds itself behind in the race to develop a vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

CureVac’s technology uses messenger RNA to stimulate cellular production of an antibody to SARS-CoV-2, similar to the approach of U.S. frontrunner Moderna and another German company called BioNTech, which has gained a weighty partner in Pfizer.

Both have already begun human testing, with Moderna releasing very preliminary early data. Last week, Moderna said with the National Institutes of Health it will begin enrolling volunteers in a 30,000-participant Phase 3 trial in July.

CureVac expects to begin human testing by the end of June, a spokesperson said in an email.

Author:Jon Gardner

Published: June 15, 2020

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