The European Commission and German biotech firm CureVac said on Thursday (20 August) they had concluded a first round of talks for the supply of at least 225 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine to EU states.
The envisaged contract with CureVac would offer the possibility for all EU member states to purchase the vaccine, as well as to donate to lower and middle income countries or re-direct to European countries.
CureVac is a German company pioneering the development of a new class of vaccines based on messenger RNA, transported into cells by lipid nanoparticles. CureVac is a German company. In March the German press disclosed that the US administration had offered a large sum of money to the company in exchange for priority access to the vaccine, when and if it were developed.
The company released positive pre-clinical results for its lead vaccine candidate against the novel coronavirus back in May, with data indicating that the vaccine triggered a fast induction of an immune response with T-cell responses.
The vaccine is currently in a Phase 1 clinical trial at different study sites in Germany and Belgium, with first results expected early in the fourth quarter of 2020.
It is anticipated that the Commission will have a contractual framework in place for the initial purchase of 225 million doses on behalf of all EU member states, to be supplied once a vaccine has proven to be safe and effective against COVID-19.
The hope is that these talks lead to the agreement of an advance purchase agreement, whereby money is offered as a down-payment on the vaccines that will be purchased by member states in order to compensate for the upfront costs of vaccine development.
This will be financed via a €2bn EU emergency support instrument, which offers funds dedicated to the creation of a portfolio of potential vaccines with different profiles and produced by different companies.
The conclusion of these talks following similar discussions with pharmaceutical companies Sanofi-GSK and Johnson & Johnson, and the signature of an advance purchase agreement with AstraZeneca on 14 August.
In a press statement published online, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said that the European Commission is delivering on its promise to secure rapid access for Europeans and the world to a safe vaccine that protects against the coronavirus.
“Each round of talks that we conclude with the pharmaceutical industry brings us closer to beating this virus. We will soon have an agreement with CureVac, the innovative European firm that received earlier EU funding to produce a vaccine in Europe.”
“Our negotiations continue with other companies to find the technology that would protect us all,” she added.
“In the current pandemic, we are very pleased to further strengthen the European Commission’s endeavour to provide rapid access to a safe and effective vaccine against the COVID-19 virus across Europe and beyond,” said Dr. Franz-Werner Haas, Chief Executive Officer of CureVac.
“Assuming positive results from our ongoing clinical trials and approval from the regulatory authorities, we are fully committed to ensure broad access to our vaccine.”
Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, added that the conclusion of these talks increases the chances of finding an effective coronavirus vaccine.
“We continue to work shoulder to shoulder with Member States and with vaccine developers to fulfil the aims of our European Vaccines Strategy – a vaccine for all”.
The European Union’s executive arm is also in talks with Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi for their vaccines under development, and agreed last week an advanced purchase deal with AstraZeneca for at least 300 million doses of the shot it is developing with Oxford University.
The EU will now begin negotiating a contract with CureVac, which could be the company’s first bilateral supply deal, aimed at securing the vaccine for all 27 EU member states should the shot prove safe and effective.
CureVac said on Thursday the talks included an option to supply 180 million additional doses.
The company’s shares rose almost 8% in premarket trade on Thursday, having soared as much as 222% after its Nasdaq debut last Friday, the first by a company developing a COVID-19 vaccine.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]