- CureVac CEO Daniel Menichella was abruptly replaced on Wednesday, when the German biotech announced its board chairman Ingmar Hoerr would take over as the company's top executive.
- The transition comes just nine days after Menichella traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a meeting between President Donald Trump and drugmakers developing treatments for the new coronavirus now rapidly spreading throughout the U.S.
- In late January, CureVac partnered with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to begin development on a vaccine for the virus, now named SARS-CoV-2. In a statement to BioPharma Dive, a company spokesperson said the leadership change would not affect the program, or any other of CureVac's clinical candidates.
Last Monday, Menichella was among the top executives of nearly a dozen biotech and pharmaceutical companies briefing President Trump on their respective coronavirus drug development plans. Just over a week later, he was out as CEO, replaced by CureVac founder and former CEO Hoerr.
It's a rapid transition in leadership at a time when the company is in the global spotlight for its efforts to quickly advance a coronavirus vaccine into human testing.
CureVac's statement included little detail on reason for the change. The company spokesperson told BioPharma Dive that an investor sought to have Hoerr take a "more prominent role within the company as he has a lot of biotech experience and knowledge."
Dievini Hopp BioTech Holding and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are two investors in CureVac.
The spokesperson affirmed CureVac's continued commitment to clinical development of the coronavirus program.
At the Mar. 2 White House meeting, Menichella told President Trump that CureVac expects to start a Phase 1 study in June, an effort helped by its partnership with CEPI.
"We believe we can develop the vaccine for COVID-19 very, very quickly, and we have the wherewithal to manufacture it, although we would like some additional help on our largest GMP fourth facility," Menichella said.
CureVac specializes in mRNA vaccines, which use strips of genetic information to coax the body into producing protective antibodies against a viral pathogen like SARS-CoV-2. It's an approach that's gained particular attention in the current pandemic as Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna quickly developed and manufactured a prototype mRNA vaccine that's now entering human safety testing.
Menichella became CEO of CureVac in May 2018, succeeding Hoerr after having led the biotech's U.S. subsidiary for a little more than a year prior.
Following the transition, Hoerr became chairman of CureVac's supervisory board, a position he's held through the leadership shake-up announced Wednesday.
"[W]e will continue to focus fully on taking the company to the next stage of its development and advance our clinical product pipeline with the goal of bringing mRNA-based drugs to patients," Hoerr said. "The vaccine against Covid-19 plays a key role here."