Pharma Giant GSK and mRNA Biotech CureVac Ink €1B Deal

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has struck a deal worth up to €1B with the German biotechnology company CureVac to co-develop messenger RNA drugs for infectious diseases.

Under the terms of the deal, GSK will fund the development and manufacturing of up to five mRNA-based vaccines and antibody drugs targeting undisclosed infectious diseases. CureVac’s current rabies and Covid-19 vaccine programs are not included in the deal.

CureVac will be responsible for the development of each candidate treatment up to the end of phase I, and GSK will then be responsible for further clinical development and commercialization of the candidates. 

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In return, GSK will make an equity investment of €150M, almost a 10% stake in CureVac, along with an upfront cash payment of €120M. In addition, CureVac can expect a one-off reimbursable payment of €30M that lets GSK reserve manufacturing capacity in CureVac’s upcoming 8,800m² factory, which is being built at CureVac’s headquarters near Stuttgart.

On top of this, CureVac will be eligible to receive development and regulatory milestone payments of up to €320M, commercial milestone payments of up to €380M, and royalties on product sales.

CureVac is one of several biotechs developing mRNA therapies, such as the German BioNTech and the US Moderna. Though this technology is still in its infancy, it is generating big interest from the biotech industry because mRNA drugs are much easier to manufacture than traditional biologic drugs such as antibodies, allowing a faster development time.

The fast turnover of mRNA therapeutics has made them one of the most anticipated vaccine technologies in development against the Covid-19 pandemic. In February, for instance, CureVac announced its bid to develop the first mRNA coronavirus vaccine and have the candidate ready for clinical testing on “an extremely ambitious timeline” of a few months. The vaccine entered clinical testing in June, just behind those of Moderna and BioNTech.

CureVac’s involvement in the Covid-19 vaccine race has also led to high visibility in the public eye, with the company at one point being dogged by an international controversy between Germany and the US.

Despite the controversy, the company has fared well in recent months. This week, it announced it had raised €560M in a private financing round. This round includes GSK’s latest cash, a €300M investment from the German Federal Government in June, and around €110M from a group of investors including the Qatar Investment Authority.

This massive deal is only one of many sprouting in the mRNA field during the Covid-19 pandemic. This week, for example, the EU has been in talks with CureVac, BioNTech, and other companies for pre-ordering vaccines for Covid-19. 

BioNTech has also had a busy week with a US vaccine order worth €1.7B along with the launch of a public offering worth around €440M to fund the development of its Covid-19 vaccine as well as other treatments in its pipeline.

GSK has its own form of mRNA technology called self-replicating mRNA, which is designed to reduce the volume of vaccine needed to have an effect in patients. With this latest deal, the big pharma aims to mesh its mRNA know-how with CureVac’s own expertise, and to tap into the biotech’s manufacturing muscle.


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