The German government has awarded a total of $745 million in funding to two German biotech firms, including BioNTech (NASDAQ: BNTX) and CureVac N.V. (NASDAQ: CVAC) as part of an effort to accelerate COVID-19 vaccines and German production capacity. But the nation’s Research Minister emphasized that speed cannot trump quality and safety as Anja Karliczek directly addressed the need as a society for a safe vaccine. Cutting corners leads to safety risks and ultimately less public confidence in the product. BioNTech received 375 million Euros ($445m) while CureVac brought home 252 Euros ($299.3m). The funds are subject to various milestones. As Jens Spahn, Health Minister, emphasized the importance of access to a broad portfolio of vaccines, the ministry declared it was in discussions with a third vaccine maker called IDT Biologika, which is working on a viral vector vaccine. Germany seeks access to more doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines in advance than its total population size. Interestingly, this deal was done separate and apart from the European Union.
The vaccines from both BioNTech and CureVac are considered strong candidates. Both experimental vaccines happen to be based on a promising approach, like Moderna, where molecules actually carry a genetic code known as messenger RNA (mRNA). Pfizer paired with BioNTech, and the pair are considered to be potentially the No. 1 candidate in the vaccine race. While the U.S. government actually made an attempt to do an exclusive deal with CureVac, which its management and board resisted.
According to multiple news sources, including Reuters, the German government discusses a possible deal with IDT Biologika. Located in both Germany and the United States, the company actually specializes in contract development and manufacturing of Viral Vaccines, Gene and Immunotherapeutics as well as sterile liquids and lyophilized Biologics. The company touts on its website that it not only helps biotech companies but also the United States government as part of “research consortia” by helping to translate viral vaccines and biopharmaceuticals from research lab through clinical development to large-scale commercial manufacturing.
Offering end to end GMP compliant services in BSL2 facilities, they meet EMA, FDA and ANVISA standards. Based in Dessau, Germany, the company has been operating continuously for 95 years.
Better Safe than Sorry
In what could be considered desperate times the German government representatives emphasized the clear superiority of safety over speed. Research Minister Anja Karliczek reported that safety would be the number one priority, commenting, “Even when the world is waiting for a vaccine—we won’t take risky short-cuts here.” Of course, in the “East,” both China and Russia have taken what appear as clear short-cuts, which undoubtedly spooks those focused on quality and safety. TrialSite identifies some of these elements in Better Safe than Sorry.
Germany, like the United States and other nations, already procured up to 54 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine candidate as a member in the EU deal totaling 450 million doses. However, based on previous comments from the Health Minister Jens Spahn, Germany will buy more doses as they seek more than the actual population, which is about 83 million.
Upon vaccine approval of its BNT162b2, both BioNTech and Pfizer agreed to provide up to 200 million doses of its vaccine to the EU in advance of actual regulatory approvals. CureVac reports it’s in negotiations with the European Commission to deliver up to 225 million doses plus an option for an extra 180 million doses.
Collaboration with WHO’s COVAX Up in the Air
Germany has yet to sign up to contribute to the “COVAX” global allocation vaccine plan co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO). This program acquires and redistributes low cost vaccine doses to those countries/people in need. Germany has until this Friday to decide, reported Reuters.