GlaxoSmithKline, CureVac and BioNTech clinch German pandemic preparedness contracts

As CureVac and GlaxoSmithKline mulligan with a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine, the partners have signed on for a German pandemic contingency plan to earmark mRNA production capacity for years to come.

The contract with the German federal government will see GSK and CureVac supply mRNA vaccines “within a broader tender for pandemic preparedness in Germany." After a maximum two-year setup period, the companies will provide the German government with access to CureVac’s manufacturing capacity until 2029.

Under the deal, CureVac and GSK will be able to swiftly deploy 80 million mRNA shot doses annually “during the remainder of the current pandemic or in future infectious disease outbreaks,” the partners said in a release Monday.

The move seeks to counter the sort of supply bottlenecks that were commonplace in the pandemic’s early days, the partners added. With GSK and Curevac’s mRNA muscle on retainer, Germany will pay the partners an annual standby fee, following successful setup, which entails maintaining production capacity “at constant readiness.”

GSK and CureVac didn’t say how much they’ll be paid for their end of the bargain.

Also Friday, local mRNA rival and Pfizer vaccine partner BioNTech scored its own deal with the German feds to maintain annual manufacturing capacity for 80 million vaccine doses over an initial five-year run.

The pandemic “underscored the importance of having access to innovative technology platforms, such as mRNA technology, as well as corresponding robust manufacturing capacities to rapidly develop and deliver life-saving vaccines⁠—particularly as a protective measure in case of future infectious disease emergencies,” Franz-Werner Haas, chief executive officer of CureVac, said in a statement.

CureVac has been talking up mRNA’s manufacturing perks and flexibility since the pandemic’s early days.

Aside from swift development of new vaccines, the “beauty” of the mRNA platform is that the production process is “universal,” Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, CureVac’s chief technology officer, said early last year on a Fierce Pharma virtual panel.

“If you invest in huge production capacity, you can produce different vaccines in the same plant,” Fotin-Mleczek said, without needing to “start from scratch” or switch production processes. 

Meanwhile, the move comes as CureVac musters a second attempt at an mRNA shot with partner GSK after the termination of its first vaccine hopeful last October.

CureVac called it quits on its initial mRNA contender after the shot delivered an efficacy range below 50%—far below the original 90% seen in early mRNA readouts from others.

Nonetheless barreling ahead with CV2CoV, the partners recently started dosing patients in clinical trials of their “second-generation” candidate. The move comes after a preclinical study in monkeys found the vaccine triggered an immune response on par with natural infection.

Editor's note: This story was updated to clarify that GSK was not involved in CureVac's first-generation COVID-19 vaccine.