Dive Insight:

L​ike vaccines from Moderna and partners Pfizer and BioNTech, CureVac’s shot uses messenger RNA to train the body’s immune system to fight off the intruding virus. But while the technology is similar, the German biotech has lagged rivals in advancing its candidate into the final phases of testing.

Working under extraordinarily fast timelines, both Moderna and Pfizer won approval for their vaccines last year and immunization campaigns are now well underway in the U.S., U.K., Canada and elsewhere. By comparison, CureVac only began a late-stage trial to prove its vaccine protects against COVID-19 on Dec. 14.

The Phase 2b/3 study is designed to enroll 36,500 people in Europe and South America. Like the other messenger RNA vaccines, CureVac’s candidate is a two-dose regimen. The final efficacy analysis is expected to occur after 185 COVID-19 cases are documented among participants. If there are 60 or fewer cases among those who got the vaccine, the study would be considered a success.

Early on in its vaccine efforts, CureVac was embroiled in political controversy between Germany and the U.S. The company abruptly replaced its CEO, Daniel Menichella, in March while denying reports U.S. officials had tried to secure exclusive access to its vaccine. Menichella’s ouster came soon after a White House meeting with President Donald Trump that he attended.

Three months later, the German government announced the purchase of 300 million euros, or about $368 million, worth of shares in CureVac. While Germany made its interests clear in the transaction, saying that the country needed “these essential research results and technologies,” CureVac said the deal didn’t amount to a purchase of vaccine rights.

The partnership with Bayer may further ease German concerns about access to a successful vaccine. Perhaps best known as the maker of aspirin, Bayer has grown into a worldwide conglomerate with a huge array of products in both health care and agriculture.

Bayer’s “expertise and infrastructure will help us make our vaccine candidate CVnCoV even more rapidly available to as many people as possible,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said in the company’s statement.