June 15, 2021

In Germany, CureVac’s vaccine is overdue

But where has CureVac gone? The biotech of Tübingen (Baden-Würtemberg) was one of the great hopes of Germany in the race for the vaccine against the Covid-19, one of the few to master, like BioNtech and Moderna, the RNA technology messenger. More than six months after the start of the first vaccinations, CureVac must agree that it is considerably behind the competition: on May 28, the company declared that its therapeutic tests of its vaccine candidate “are progressing”, without specifying when the results will be very close. expected on its effectiveness will be published.

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In its press release, the German biotech explains that its first-generation vaccine candidate is in phase 2/3 of clinical trials, carried out with 40,000 people, 25% of whom come from Europe, the rest of Latin America. But after five and a half months of testing, no statistically significant efficacy analysis has been published yet. CureVac simply states that the safety of the product has been confirmed. In comparison, competitors in messenger RNA vaccine technology, Biontech and Moderna, had published their first efficacy results after three and a half months of therapeutic tests. Four to six weeks later, they obtained their emergency approval for their preparation from the authorities.

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CureVac apparently had more difficulty recruiting its cohort of candidates for the therapeutic study. Above all, it faces a major obstacle: the variability of Covid-19. “The reality of Covid-19 has changed significantly since the start of this year, CureVac boss Franz-Werner Haas explained during the company’s quarterly review at the end of May. The virus is now characterized by the worrying spread of variants and new strains of virus, which have almost eliminated the original strain against which we fought in 2020. “

This specificity influences the research of the company, which decided to integrate this variability into its study, by sequencing the cases of Covid-19 that appear in the study. The sequencing analyzes the genetic information of the virus in a much more thorough way than the usual PCR tests, which makes it possible to identify known and as yet unknown mutations. CureVac has announced that it will release this data along with data on the efficacy of its vaccine candidate. “Our study is the only one which has adapted to these modifications”, Mr. Haas told the daily business Handelsblatt, at the end of May. He sees this specificity as an advantage, even if the risk exists that the protection of the future vaccine will appear less than that of the competition. “We are still counting on an update of the efficacy study in the second quarter, that is to say in June,” Mr. Haas continued.

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