GSK Takes 10% Stake in CureVac to Bolster mRNA Vaccine Development
GlaxoSmithKline and Germany-based CureVac forged a strategic collaboration worth nearly $1 billion to develop up to five messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) targeting infectious disease pathogens.
The two companies will combine their mRNA research to develop the potential vaccines across a range of infectious disease pathogens. Although the companies did not single out the different types of infectious diseases they intended to target, GSK and CureVac said the targets have been selected with the “potential to best leverage the advantages of this platform technology, while addressing significant unmet medical need and economic burden.”
CureVac’s existing COVID-19 mRNA and rabies vaccine research programs are not included in the collaboration with GSK. In June, CureVac announced the go-ahead to initiate Phase I testing of its mRNA vaccine for COVID-19. The development of that vaccine candidate has been bolstered by a significant investment from the German government, which acquired a 23% stake in the company.
Messenger RNA harnesses the genetic code for pathogens and is then inserted into a patient with a goal of producing antigens or proteins that can help the immune system fight off the infection. As of yet, no mRNA drug has been approved, although there are multiple programs in development for the novel coronavirus. In addition to CureVac’s program for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech will soon initiate Phase III studies of their mRNA vaccine candidates.
Roger Connor, president of GSK Vaccines, said the self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) vaccine technology developed by his company has shown the potential of using mRNA programs to advance vaccine development.
“Through the application of mRNA technology, including SAM, we hope to be able to develop and scale-up advanced vaccines and therapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases quicker than ever before,” Connor said in a statement.
Franz-Werner Haas, acting chief executive officer of CureVac, touted the partnership with GSK. Haas said a partnership with GlaxoSmithKline provides his company with a “world-class partner” who has the experience and global footprint to boost the development of their mRNA program and help bring them to patients who need them.
Under terms of the deal, GSK will make an equity payment of £130 million (approximately $164 million), which represents a nearly 10% stake in the Germany-based company. Additionally, GSK made an upfront cash payment of £104, or about $131 million, and a one-time reimbursable payment of £26 million that will cover manufacturing capacity reservation, upon certification of CureVac’s commercial-scale manufacturing facility currently under construction in Germany. CureVac will be eligible for regulatory and developmental milestone payments totaling £606 million, about $706 million.
GSK will fund R&D activities at CureVac related to the development projects covered by the collaboration. CureVac will be responsible for the preclinical- and clinical development through Phase I trials of these projects, after which GSK will be responsible for further development and potential commercialization. CureVac will be responsible for the manufacturing of the product candidates, including for commercialization, and will retain commercialization rights for selected countries for all product candidates.