Gates Foundation puts $52M behind CureVac, following Sanofi, Boehringer's lead

Bill Gates

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced this week it's betting on CureVac, a move both Sanofi ($SNY) and Boehringer Ingelheim made last year, committing to an mRNA technology designed to make vaccines less expensive and easier to make.

The foundation is investing $52 million in the German biotech, which focuses on mRNA-based vaccine technologies. Longtime CureVac investor dievini Hopp BioTech is getting on board, too, committing $24 million in equity.

CureVac's platform uses natural mRNA--messenger RNA--as a "data carrier" to induce patients' cells to produce human proteins, fighting disease from inside the body. The vaccines can be manufactured cheaply and quickly, and are also thermostable, so cold-chain infrastructure is not an issue.

The funding will be used to further develop the platform, and to build an industrial-scale facility to churn out these therapeutics. The Gates Foundation has promised an undisclosed amount of separate funding for several projects to develop vaccines using the mRNA platform.

The partnership will have as its focus the development and production of vaccines for infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people in the world's poorest countries, according to the release.

"If we can teach the body to create its own natural defenses, we can revolutionize the way we treat and prevent diseases," Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement. "Technologies like mRNA give us confidence to place big bets for the future. We are pleased to partner with CureVac who has been pioneering this technology."

In 2014, CureVac collaborated with Boehringer on a lung cancer vaccine and inked a deal with Sanofi Pasteur for rights to a new mRNA-based vaccine to fight an undisclosed pathogen.

- here's the release
- read the FierceBiotech story