BioNTech, CureVac part of $3.14B deal to bolster German vaccine capacity through 2029: report

Homegrown mRNA players BioNTech and CureVac have signed on to supply Germany with vaccines against future health emergencies for years to come.

Germany will pay upward of 2.86 billion euros ($3.14 billion) to lock up local vaccine production capacity through 2029, Reuters reports, citing the country’s economy ministry. Wednesday, the German government approved plans to sign contracts with mRNA specialist BioNTech plus the partnership between CureVac and GlaxoSmithKline. Also involved are contract manufacturers Wacker, CordenPharma, Celonic and IDT, the news outlet said.

While BioNTech has done gangbusters with its Pfizer-partnered COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, mRNA compatriot CureVac has had a decidedly tougher go of things. CureVac in September cut the cord on manufacturing contracts with Wacker and Celonic in the wake of late-stage data showing its first-generation COVID-19 vaccine was just 48% effective.

The cancellations wouldn’t affect CureVac’s deals with Rentschler Biopharma or Novartis for the production and formulation of mRNA, and the company continues to plug away on a second-generation COVID shot with GlaxoSmithKline.

At the time of the contract cancellations, CureVac Chief Operating Officer Malte Greune, Ph.D., credited the company’s decision to a “continuous increase” in mRNA capacity in the biopharma industry.

In October, meanwhile, a Bayer spokesperson told the German newspaper Rheinische Post that the company and CureVac had decided by “mutual agreement” to end their COVID-19 vaccine production pact.

Despite those setbacks, CureVac hasn’t given up on the mRNA manufacturing game. In fact, the company recently debuted a new subsidiary focused on its RNA printer technology, which integrates and automates the manufacturing process for RNA vaccines and therapeutics.

The RNA printer has advanced from a prototype to a fully functional facility located at CureVac’s home base in Tübingen, Germany, the company said earlier this month.

For its part, BioNTech is also pioneering a portable mRNA production approach, albeit focused on Africa rather than its home country of Germany. The company’s plan to bring mRNA production to the continent centers around modular factories housed in shipping containers. The remote factories are designed to make the company’s mRNA vaccine from start to finish, apart from the last fill-finish step.

Dubbed BioNTainers, BioNTech’s modular factories will each have capacity to produce around 50 million doses a year, the company said last month. BioNTech says it aims to start setting up its first BioNTainer in Africa by the middle of the year, with plans to initially set up the pod factories in Senegal, Rwanda and potentially South Africa.