CureVac Abandons First Covid Shot After Disappointing Trial
(Bloomberg) -- CureVac NV is abandoning its first-generation Covid-19 vaccine to focus on another shot it’s developing together with GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
European regulatory authorities had indicated the vaccine probably wouldn’t be approved before the second quarter of next year, the German biotech said on Tuesday. By then, CureVac and Glaxo expect to be conducting late-stage patient trials of a second-generation shot. The company’s advanced purchase agreement with the European Commission will be cancelled as a result.
“The dynamic of the pandemic is changing,” Chief Executive Officer Franz-Werner Haas said in a press conference. CureVac will focus now on vaccines that cover multiple virus variants or combine protection against Covid and other diseases, such as flu, in a single shot, he said.
CureVac’s first-generation vaccine delivered disappointing results earlier this year. The shot was 48% effective at preventing disease of any severity -- well behind the more than 90% rates shown by messenger RNA shots from Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. Both competitors are also working on flu vaccines.
Like those shots, CureVac’s relies on mRNA, a technology that essentially enlists the body’s own cells to produce vaccine material. The shot is slightly different from that of competitors, however, because it uses an unmodified form of mRNA.
The Glaxo project uses a more refined version of the CureVac technology, with lab test results that the company has said indicate a higher level of efficacy. The partners plan to start recruiting patients for a trial of that shot by the end of this year, with potential approval in 2022.
CureVac won’t need to refund 450 million euros ($519 million) the European Commission paid upfront as part of its vaccine order, Haas said. The commission reserved 225 million doses of the shot last year, with an option for an additional 180 million doses.
The company will receive 196 million euros in funding from the German government and was awarded a 75 million-euro loan from the European Investment Bank to support vaccine development and production.
The shares fell as much as 15% in trading before U.S. exchanges opened.
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