EU nears deal with CureVac for 225 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

The European Commission on Thursday said that it concluded exploratory talks with CureVac for an initial purchase of 225 million doses of the company's mRNA-based vaccine candidate. CureVac noted that the discussions also included an option to supply a further 180 million doses.

The commission signed its first advance purchase agreement for a coronavirus vaccine last week with AstraZeneca for up to 400 million doses of AZD1222, a contract that builds on an existing deal with a European alliance spearheaded by Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The European Commission has also held discussions with Sanofi for a potential order of 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being co-developed with GlaxoSmithKline, and more recently with Johnson & Johnson for a possible initial order of 200 million doses of its Ad26.COV2.S candidate, plus the option for another 200 million doses.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said "we will soon have an agreement with CureVac," which she noted had received earlier EU funding to produce a vaccine in Europe. The commission noted that the contract with CureVac would allow all EU members to purchase the vaccine, as well as donations to lower and middle income countries. "Our negotiations continue with other companies to find the technology that would protect us all," von der Leyen added, with a recent report suggesting that these include Moderna, as well as BioNTech, which is working on a COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer.

Large-scale trial slated for Q4

CureVac said Thursday it could start a Phase IIb/III study on its vaccine candidate in the last three months of this year based on results of its current Phase I trials under way in Germany and Belgium, whose initial read-out could come early in the fourth quarter.

CEO Franz-Werner Haas said "assuming positive results from our ongoing clinical trials…we are fully committed to ensure broad access," although CureVac recently ruled out selling its vaccine at cost. The vaccine could potentially require lower doses than others under development, including ones from Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech alliance, which would allow it to offer "a competitive price, while still preserving some 'ethical margin,'" chief financial officer Pierre Kemula remarked earlier this month.

In June, the German government invested €300 million ($355 million) to take an approximately 23% stake in CureVac. The firm also closed an initial public offering this week, and said its proceeds totalled about $245.3 million.

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