British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has backed a “cutting edge” player in the race to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. GSK said it was putting £130 million into CureVac for 10% of the business and would make an upfront payment of £104 million.
The German vaccine company is racing to develop and manufacture a new method of preventing the spread of coronavirus, using an innovative new solution.
CureVac uses messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to help fight the virus.
Through the application of mRNA technology, including SAM, we hope to be able to develop and scale up advanced vaccines and therapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases quicker than ever before
The method allows the company to mimic the antigen needed. It uses mRNA to activate the body’s immune system to produce the right protein and help it fight the virus.
Then-chief executive Daniel Menichella said in February he was keen to develop a vaccine that would not only fight Covid-19, but also other coronaviruses such as Mers and Sars.
However, Mr Menichella later left the business after he met with US President Donald Trump. Although the company denied the allegations, reports emerged in the press that the president was trying to get exclusive rights to CureVac’s new solutions.
German ministers said that the vaccine would be shared with the world, and not just given to individual companies. The government in Berlin has a 23% stake in the firm. The EU later invested 75 million euros (£68 million) into the company.
This weekend, Reuters reported that EU health authorities were in talks over buying vaccines in advance from CureVac and other companies.
With this collaboration, we are gaining a world-class partner whose expertise and global footprint will allow us to further develop and translate the value of our platform into potential products for the world
Along with Moderna, CureVac is one of the leading companies in the race to develop innovative mRNA vaccines. The method could be a revolution that transforms medicine, CureVac’s founder Ingmar Hoerr has said.
GSK’s agreement with CureVac covers the research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of up to five mRNA-based vaccines. The development could expand the range of diseases that can be prevented or treated, GSK said.
Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said: “GSK’s self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) vaccine technology has shown us the potential of mRNA technology to advance the science of vaccine development, and CureVac’s experience complements our own expertise.
“Through the application of mRNA technology, including SAM, we hope to be able to develop and scale up advanced vaccines and therapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases quicker than ever before.”
Dr Franz-Werner Haas, acting CureVac chief executive, said: “We are delighted to partner with GSK.
“With this collaboration, we are gaining a world-class partner whose expertise and global footprint will allow us to further develop and translate the value of our platform into potential products for the world.”