The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CureVac collaborate
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made a commitment to invest $52 million in CureVac, a Germany-based, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company specializing in mRNA-based vaccine technologies.
The foundation also will provide separate funding for several projects to develop prophylactic vaccines based on CureVac's proprietary messenger RNA (mRNA) platform. In addition, CureVac's longstanding investor dievini Hopp BioTech announced a commitment of $24 million of additional equity.
CureVac is pioneering the use of natural and chemically unmodified mRNA as a data carrier to instruct the human body to produce its own proteins capable of fighting a wide range of diseases. CureVac's novel technology is a mRNA therapeutic platform that allows for rapid, low-cost production of multiple drugs and vaccines. Additionally, CureVac's mRNA vaccines are thermostable, which eliminates the demand for cold-chain storage and infrastructure, a major challenge in the vaccine supply of most developing countries.
The investment will support continued development of CureVac's platform technology and the construction of an industrial scale Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) production facility. CureVac and the Gates Foundation will collaborate on the development and production of numerous vaccines against infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people in the world's poorest countries.
"If we can teach the body to create its own natural defenses, we can revolutionize the way we treat and prevent diseases," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Technologies like mRNA give us confidence to place big bets for the future.”
The Gates Foundation will provide additional funding—beyond the equity investment—for multiple projects developing vaccines for viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases. The foundation has started work with CureVac on initial projects for diseases such as rotavirus and HIV.
"When I first met CureVac's founders 10 years ago, their vision and technology reminded me of the beginnings of the software industry: mRNA is like software that is able to teach the body to reprogram itself in order to fight cancer and infectious disease. Even today I am not aware of any other biomolecule with such versatile potential," said Dietmar Hopp, through dievini Hopp Biotech, the primary shareholder in CureVac. "I am delighted that Bill Gates and the foundation see it the same way."
Any Gates Foundation-funded products will be made available by CureVac at an affordable price in poor countries. CureVac will be able to merchandise each Gates-funded product in developed countries on its own, through licensees or a combination of both. In addition, the new manufacturing facility will have dedicated capacity to focus on products resulting from Gates Foundation-related projects.