EU offers support to German vaccine company coveted by Trump

epa08297627 An exterior view of a building of a part of biopharmaceutical company CureVac in Tuebingen, Germany, 16 March 2020. [Ronald Wittek/EPA/EFE]

The European Commission said on Monday (16 March) it offered up to €80 million of financial support to German company CureVac to scale up development and production of a coronavirus vaccine in Europe.

The funding pledge comes one day after German government sources said that the Trump administration was looking in to how it could gain access to a potential vaccine being developed by the unlisted German firm, sparking a backlash in Berlin.

The controversy broke Sunday when the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag published a story saying Trump offered a large sum of money to the company at a meeting on 2 March in exchange for obtaining the vaccine when and if it were developed.

The headline read, “Donald Trump grabs for German Vaccine Company.”

Citing government sources, the newspaper reported “there is talk of a billion dollars in Berlin.”

German Health Ministry officials confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that the article was correct but that Germany was working to ensure any vaccines would be available to all.

The report also said Trump wanted CureVac to move its research group to the United States from Tübingen, the southern German town where the company is based. The company has offices in Boston but its main research is not carried out there.

“I am proud that we have leading companies like CureVac in the EU,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement on Monday. “Their home is here. But their vaccines will benefit everyone, in Europe and beyond.”

The support takes the form of an EU guarantee of a loan from the European Investment Bank that is currently being assessed.

In the meantime, CureVac tweeted Monday it did not receive an offer from President Trump for rights to a coronavirus vaccine it is working on.

CureVac issued a news release on 3 March announcing that its CEO, Daniel Menichella, was invited to the White House to discuss vaccine development with Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, together with other companies working on vaccines.

Menichella left the company abruptly five days ago. A CureVac news release gave no reason for his departure.

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