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German firm gets go-ahead to test corona vaccine on humans

June 17, 2020

German vaccine regulators have confirmed that biotech firm CureVac will begin trialing a coronavirus vaccine on humans. The vaccine could be on the market by mid-2021.

A virologist holds a syringe containing the coronavirus vaccine
Image: picture-alliance/Geisler-Fotopress/C. Hardt

German biotech firm CureVac is to become the second company in Germany to begin human trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine, the country's vaccine regulator confirmed Wednesday.

The clinical study will include approximately 168 healthy adults, of which 144 are to be given the experimental vaccine. The first vaccinations will begin in June. 

The company, based in Tübingen in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, said it expects the first meaningful results from phase one of the trial by fall of this year.

If read-outs are a promising, a larger trial could begin as early as September or October, CureVac said. 

Potential for vaccine by next summer

The first trial phase is due to last 15 months, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), Germany's vaccine regulator. 

Read more: Will coronavirus help 'greedy' pharma reset reputation?

PEI said that if trial results are "very good," Curevac may be able to apply for approval of the coronavirus vaccine by early 2021.

This could put the vaccine on the market by the middle of next year, Curevac said. 

Germany buys up a quarter of firm's shares

The Mainz-based company Biontech in April had received approval from PEI to begin testing its own vaccine on healthy volunteers. 

On Monday, Germany's Ministry of Economic Affairs announced it would take a €300 million ($337 million) stake in Curevac, acquiring around 23% of the company's shares. The aim is to protect the company from a potential takeover from abroad. The state said it did not wish to influence business decisions. 

EU makes its own moves

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday said the EU wants to secure access to coronavirus vaccines currently in development. 

"The point is that we jointly reserve production capacities for future vaccines in companies in advance," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a video message on Wednesday, adding that the Commission would finance the upfront costs of developing vaccines in exchange for the right to purchase a certain number of doses. 

However, not all EU ministers were in support of the plan, which is to be funded through EU programs and the European Investment Bank. Many governments have called for greater "transparency" regarding vaccine negotiations and distribution, and some think the initiative should be tackled on a global level. 

kp/rt (AFP,dpa,Reuters)

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