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CureVac’s Coronavirus Vaccine at the Center of a Fight for Control

CureVac, a German biopharmaceutical company, has hit the headlines after US President Trump tried to secure exclusive rights to its developmental coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine is being developed to prevent the spread of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19. Trump is reported to have offered large sums of money to those working on the vaccine, in a move designed to give the US complete control over it. Trump’s actions are reported to have angered German politicians and have prompted Berlin to offer financial incentives to the company.

CureVac, however, has confirmed its commitment to develop a vaccine to protect people worldwide, making announcements on twitter, its website and through the media. CureVac has stated that its “internal efforts are focused on the development of a coronavirus vaccine with the goal to reach, help and to protect people and patients worldwide”. 

Just days before it confirmed its commitment, the company founder and Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Ingamr Hoerr replaced Daniel Menichella as CEO. Menichella had recently visited the White House, along with other pharmaceutical representatives, to discuss the development of its vaccine with Trump and other US officials. The reason for Menichella’s sudden departure has not been made clear.

CureVac’s technology

CureVac is developing messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based therapies to treat cancer and certain rare diseases, as well as to prevent infectious diseases. mRNA is a type of RNA present in all living cells. It plays a role in the process whereby DNA is converted into working proteins that carry out all the functions necessary for life.

CureVac’s coronavirus vaccine

CureVac and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) entered into a collaboration to develop a coronavirus vaccine on January 31, 2020. The collaboration builds upon a previous agreement between the two to develop a rapid-response vaccine platform. 

CureVac is currently selecting the most suitable candidate for further development and clinical trials are expected to begin in early summer 2020. Preparations are already underway for the trials at two primary study centers. 

In January 2020, CureVac announced positive results from a phase I study of its low-dose rabies vaccine, which the company is relying on as evidence that the same approach could work for a vaccine against coronavirus. CureVac has a GMP-certified production facility capable of producing up to 10 million doses of a vaccine in one run.

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