Germany’s CureVac has teamed up with the country’s largest pharmaceuticals company Bayer to accelerate the development and production of its Covid-19 vaccine.
The Tübingen-based company, whose vaccine uses a similar technology to the ones developed by BioNTech and Moderna, said on Thursday it had entered into a collaboration and services agreement that would help it deliver several hundred million doses.
CureVac, the oldest of the trio of companies working on messenger RNA technology to develop vaccines, was among the first to announce it was working on a product to deal with Sars-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
But it has since lagged far behind its competitors, both of which have already won authorisations in the US and EU.
Until now, CureVac has said it would have the capacity to produce up to 300 million doses in 2021, and a further 600 million doses in 2022 – far fewer than BioNTech/Pfizer, which expects to produce 1.3 billion doses next year.
The company has already signed a deal with the EU to supply up to 405 million doses of its two-course product but has abandoned plans to supply its vaccine to the US, citing market saturation, despite reports that it was pursued by the Trump administration last March.
In a statement, CureVac said it would remain the market authorisation holder for its Covid-19 vaccine in the EU, while Bayer would have the option to become the holder elsewhere.
Stefan Oelrich, the head of Bayer’s pharma division, said: “We are highly committed to making our capabilities and networks available to help end this pandemic.”
While no financial details of the deal were disclosed, CureVac said Bayer would assist with its expertise in “clinical operations, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance, medical information, supply chain performance as well as support in selected countries”.
CureVac began its large-scale phase 3 trial last month, which includes more than 35,000 participants aged 18 and over across Europe and Latin America.
CureVac’s vaccine does have some advantages over those by its mRNA rivals. The company says its product can remain stable for three months at normal fridge temperatures, making it easier to transport to countries without comprehensive cold-chain infrastructure.
Additionally, CureVac is testing a dose of 12 micrograms, less than half the size of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, which requires 30 micrograms per dose. The smaller dose could make it easier to ship larger amounts of the shot.
Shares of CureVac, which went public on the Nasdaq last August, rose 1 per cent to $86.85 in pre-market trading in New York, while Bayer’s stock increased 2 per cent to €52.71 on Germany’s Dax by mid-morning on Thursday in Frankfurt.
– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021