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CureVac stops development of its Covid vaccine

© Belga

The German biopharmaceutical company CureVac is stopping the development of its first candidate vaccine against the coronavirus and shifting its focus to a “second generation” vaccine, the company announced on Tuesday.

CureVac is withdrawing the first candidate vaccine, CVnCoV, from the current approval process of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and developing its new vaccine together with the British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

“The global fight against Covid-19 continues, and we remain committed to making a difference with a safe and efficacious vaccine,” said Franz-Werner Haas, Chief Executive Officer of CureVac in a press release. “This goal has not changed, but the requirements to effectively address the virus and emerging variants have changed.”

“In the ongoing transition from acute pandemic to endemic, our decision to withdraw CVnCoV from the regulatory approval process and focus our efforts on second-generation mRNA vaccine candidates reflects expected changes in public health needs that our second-generation can potentially address,” he added.

The company said it will “take advantage” of what it learned from its CVnCoV candidate vaccine to focus its resources on advanced second-generation vaccines in close collaboration with GSK.

As a direct consequence of the decision, the purchase agreement with the European Commission for 450 million doses of CVnCoV, of which 2.9 million would go to Belgium, also expires.

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As an mRNA vaccine, the CVnCoV vaccine works the same way as those produced by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. However, in CureVac’s case, the drug proved to offer much less protection: it was less than 50% effective in preventing disease, compared to around 90% in Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

“We welcome CureVac’s focus on the promising second-generation mRNA vaccine technology we are developing together as it has shown strong improvement compared to CureVac’s first-generation candidate, CVnCoV, in pre-clinical testing,” said GSK’s Head of Vaccines R&D, Rino Rappuoli.

“To complement the development of this second generation non-modified mRNA technology, we have also initiated the development of modified mRNA technologies as part of our collaboration,” he added.

The Covid-19 collaboration between the two companies builds on an existing partnership in mRNA technology that they entered into in July 2020.

The joint development will focus on improved second-generation mRNA vaccines, which have the potential to address different Covid-19 variants, target different diseases in a combination dose and provide better forms of vaccination, the companies say.

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