CureVac and the European Union are negotiating a preorder supply deal for the German biotech’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, announcing Thursday they have completed preliminary talks for an advanced purchase agreement. The proposed deal would include an initial purchase of 225 million doses, as well as an option for the EU to buy another 180 million, CureVac said. Financial terms under discussion were not disclosed, and neither the European Commission nor the company gave a timeline for signing a final deal.CureVac, which last week raised $213 million in a U.S. stock offering, isn’t as far along in testing as Moderna and BioNTech, two vaccine frontrunners that, like CureVac, use messenger RNA technology for their shots. A Phase 1 study in Germany and Belgium is underway, with results expected near the end of the year.
Europe has so far lagged behind the U.S. and U.K., which have both worked quickly to lock down access to hundreds of millions of doses of experimental coronavirus vaccines. The EU announced its first vaccine purchase agreement last week, with a deal for 300 million doses of AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s product.
European officials are now discussing other deals, recently concluding “exploratory talks” with Johnson & Johnson as well as partners Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. If those negotiations are successful, the EU could gain access to as many as 500 million doses.
Supply would depend on whether testing proves the considered vaccines safe and effective, a process that will deliver answers for AstraZeneca and Oxford well before J&J, Sanofi or CureVac.
The small biotech has courted some controversy during the pandemic. In March, CureVac was forced to combat reports the U.S. government tried to get exclusive access to its vaccine and abruptly replaced its CEO.
An approximately $350 million investment by Germany followed in June, giving the German government a stake in CureVac. The company said the deal wouldn’t mean Germany has exclusive access, however.
Unlike more traditional vaccines — which use live attenuated viruses, or are protein-based — CureVac’s vaccine works by using messenger RNA to help train the body’s immune system.
The technology has gained significant attention during the pandemic, as work by first Moderna and then BioNTech has yielded some of the most advanced coronavirus vaccine candidates. But it has applications in other diseases as well, something GlaxoSmithKline hopes to explore through a new research alliance with CureVac.