- Reports that the U.S. government attempted to secure exclusive access to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by German company CureVac are false, the company's new acting CEO and a board member said Tuesday.
- The departure of CEO Daniel Menichella following a White House meeting with President Donald Trump, as well as the medical leave taken this week by his successor Ingmar Hoerr, are "pure coincidence," said Friedrich von Bohlen und Halbach, a CureVac board member and managing director of its largest investor, dievini Hopp BioTech Holding.
- CureVac is planning to advance its coronavirus vaccine candidate into human testing by this summer. The biotech is one of three companies looking to prevent further infections of the virus, now called SARS-CoV-2, by using a new type of vaccine.
CureVac is facing a public relations challenge at a time when its management team would likely rather be dealing with scientific and manufacturing questions.
The exit of Menichella in the wake of the Mar. 2 meeting with Trump at the White House by itself was a setback for the company. But then that news was followed on Mar. 11 by German media reports the U.S. government had tried to secure exclusive access — which the company denied Tuesday — and news that Hoerr himself was going on medical leave.
"All of the speculations, all of the rumors about the White House and the visit in the White House is wrong," von Bohlen said on a conference call with reporters. "It is a pure coincidence."
The new acting CEO, Franz-Werner Hass, said the company "rejects" any speculation that the U.S. government wanted to take over the company, move its manufacturing to the U.S. or employ its scientists in order to secure exclusive access to a potential vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 and its resulting respiratory illness.
The media reports quoted unnamed German government officials. However, Hass and von Bohlen said they couldn't explain how they got the idea that there was a U.S. play on the company or its expertise.
Further confusion came from dievini Hopp financier Dietmar Hopp, who said in a statement: "This vaccine should be available not only regionally, but to people all over the world in solidarity to help and protect them."
Von Bohlen explained Hopp's statement as generally commenting on the issue of one country exclusively owning a vaccine, not as confirming an offer was made for CureVac's technology.
"Dietmar was summarizing all the information he heard," he said on the conference call. "What Dietmar Hopp was saying is, 'It cannot be that a company that I invest in will deliver [a vaccine] to an exclusive area of the world.'"
CureVac is hoping to begin testing its vaccine candidate in humans this summer. Its technology relies on messenger RNA to stimulate a biological response — in this case, immunity to SARS-Cov-2. This is a departure from traditional vaccines, which use live attenuated viruses or inactivated ones to achieve the same goal.