Bayer Partners With Germany’s CureVac on Coronavirus Vaccine

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Bayer AG partnered with CureVac NV to help bring the German biotech company’s coronavirus vaccine to market in a deal that could help burnish its image after two years of legal woes.

The companies are preparing to seek regulatory clearance in Europe and around the world, and are looking to produce several hundred million doses, they said in a joint statement.

CureVac finally found a partner in its home country after advancing alone to the last stage of clinical tests. Others like BioNTech SE, another German biotech using the same messenger-RNA approach, have sought the backing of a big pharma firm early.

CureVac shares surged 14% in trading before U.S exchanges opened. Bayer rose as much as 3.4% in Frankfurt.

The vaccine candidate at stake is one of the more advanced in a second wave of immunizations that could reach the market in the coming months, reducing the pressure on the three front-runners. A late-stage trial aiming to recruit 35,000 people in Europe and Latin America started last month.

The technology is the same employed by Moderna Inc. and BioNTech-Pfizer Inc. in two vaccines that showed high efficacy and have gained clearance in the U.S. and the European Union.

Vaccine Tracker: More than 15.9 million shots given worldwide

Franz-Werner Haas, CureVac’s chief executive, has said that while the company took longer than others to bring a product into clinical trials, it managed to create a shot that doesn’t have the storage and distribution challenges facing rivals.

The Pfizer-BioNTech shot needs ultra-cold storage while Moderna’s vaccine, cleared in the European Union just yesterday, must stay refrigerated. CureVac’s could be kept at room temperature for 24 hours and in a standard fridge for several months.

Bayer ‘Box Tick’

Haas said CureVac now has a “strong partner on our side” with Bayer. For the drugs and agriculture giant, the deal probably won’t boost earnings much, according to Redburn analyst Tony Jones. Instead, the partnership is a “box tick” for the company’s environmental, social and governance goals, Jones said.

The companies said they intend to play “a meaningful role” in helping bring the pandemic to a halt.

Bayer continues to struggle to resolve the avalanche of U.S. lawsuits claiming that the weedkiller Roundup causes cancer. The company has already pledged to spend about $11 billion to end the legal battles while insisting that the product is safe. Bayer’s shares are down about half since its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto Co.

CureVac knows about being thrust into the U.S. spotlight. It faced reports last year that the U.S. was angling to buy the company or its technology. CureVac issued denials and replaced its CEO. The German government has since bought a 23% stake in the company, which doesn’t plan to test or sell its vaccine in the U.S.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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