The German biotech CureVac — which is developing an mRNA vaccine against coronavirus — has been granted up to €80M by the European Commission, shortly after a dispute erupted over an alleged acquisition offer from the US.
The money was awarded to help CureVac quickly scale up the production of its candidate Covid-19 vaccine. It came one day after allegations from the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag claiming that US President Donald Trump intended to acquire the vaccine for exclusive use in the US.
The Welt am Sonntag report led the German authorities to investigate the allegations, but the claims were denied by CureVac and the US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell.
“This vaccine should be available not only regionally, but to people all over the world in solidarity to help and protect them,” Dietmar Hopp, the majority shareholder of CureVac, publicly stated on Sunday. “I would be glad if this could be achieved from Germany through my long-term investment.”
In a press conference today, Franz-Werner Haas — standing in for CureVac’s CEO Ingmar Hoerr who is on temporary medical leave — stated again that there was no such US offer, and couldn’t explain the basis of the circulating rumors. CureVac didn’t respond to our requests for comment.
CureVac is one of many companies developing a vaccine to fight the current Covid-19 pandemic. Together with funding from the Norwegian private-public consortium Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Tübingen-based firm aims to take the first mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 to the market.
CureVac expects to enter clinical trials with the vaccine in June 2020, which puts its schedule behind that of US heavyweight Moderna — which dosed the first patient with an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine yesterday — and the German giant BioNTech, which revealed an mRNA vaccine program for Covid-19 yesterday and expects to test it in humans by the end of next month.
The Welt am Sonntag allegation is not the only curious circumstance surrounding CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccine in the last few weeks. The company’s CEO, Daniel Menichella, was replaced unexpectedly by the company founder Hoerr last week, which followed Menichella’s attendance at a US meeting with Donald Trump to discuss Covid-19 vaccine development early this month. Hoerr was then active CEO for only several days before going on medical leave, which the company says was not related to coronavirus.
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