CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine candidate triggers immune response at low dose in preclinical testing

CureVac on Thursday reported preclinical results for its vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2, saying a low dose showed "fast induction of a balanced immune response with high levels of virus neutralising titers and T-cell responses." Acting CEO Franz Werner-Haas said "with recurring positive results for flu, [respiratory syncytial virus], rabies and now our coronavirus vaccine candidate, we have demonstrated the sustained performance of our mRNA platform."

CureVac explained that once the sequence of the novel coronavirus was published in January, it undertook preclinical testing of "a variety of potential antigenic constructs based on the spike protein to elicit high immunogenicity." It says it now intends to initiate the first Phase I/IIa trial of its lead vaccine candidate in healthy volunteers in June.

According to CureVac, large quantities of material for its potential vaccine have already been produced at its German manufacturing facility in Tübingen. The drugmaker noted that "manufacturing capacity of the facility can potentially supply several hundred million doses per year, depending on the human dose defined in the clinical trials."

In March, CureVac dismissed rumours that it had given the US exclusive rights to its vaccine, with one report citing Germany's health ministry as saying President Donald Trump was trying to lure the German company to move its research to the US. Officials in the EU, including Germany, were later said to be working on ways to discourage takeovers of EU-based research firms that are working on drugs and vaccines against COVID-19.

Earlier this year, CureVac partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to develop a vaccine against COVID-19. It has also received financial support for its coronavirus vaccine efforts from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), an agency of the US Department of Defense.

For related analysis, see ViewPoints: COVID-19 vaccines in focus. See also ViewPoints: Pandemic panic motivates mRNA development.

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