SEATTLE and TÜBINGEN, Germany -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CureVac today announced that the foundation has made a commitment to invest $52 million (€46 million) in CureVac, a leading clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company specializing in mRNA-based vaccine technologies. As part of the agreement, the foundation will also provide separate funding for several projects to develop prophylactic vaccines based on CureVac's proprietary messenger RNA (mRNA) platform. In addition, CureVac's longstanding investor dievini Hopp BioTech announced a commitment of $24 million (€21 million) of additional equity.
CureVac is pioneering the use of natural and chemically unmodified mRNA as a data carrier to instruct the human body to produce its own proteins capable of fighting a wide range of diseases. CureVac's novel technology is the broadest and most advanced mRNA therapeutic platform and allows for rapid, low-cost production of multiple drugs and vaccines. Additionally, CureVac's mRNA vaccines are thermostable, which eliminates the demand for cold-chain storage and infrastructure, a major challenge in the vaccine supply of most developing countries.
The investment will support continued development of CureVac's platform technology and the construction of an industrial scale Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) production facility. As part of this partnership, CureVac and the Gates Foundation will collaborate on the development and production of numerous vaccines against infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people in the world's poorest countries.
"If we can teach the body to create its own natural defenses, we can revolutionize the way we treat and prevent diseases," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Technologies like mRNA give us confidence to place big bets for the future. We are pleased to partner with CureVac who has been pioneering this technology."
"This collaboration will ensure that one of medicine's most promising new technologies is applied to the challenge of reaching all people with the affordable, life-saving vaccines they need," said Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Gates Foundation will provide additional funding – beyond the equity investment – for multiple projects developing vaccines for viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases. The foundation has started work with CureVac on initial projects for diseases such as rotavirus and HIV.
"When I first met CureVac's founders 10 years ago, their vision and technology reminded me of the beginnings of the software industry: mRNA is like software that is able to teach the body to reprogram itself in order to fight cancer and infectious disease. Even today I am not aware of any other biomolecule with such versatile potential," said Dietmar Hopp, through dievini Hopp Biotech, the primary shareholder in CureVac. "I am delighted that Bill Gates and the foundation see it the same way."
Ingmar Hoerr, co-founder and CEO of CureVac, said, "With the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation we have found another strong and highly committed investor to support us in expanding our mRNA platform at an accelerated pace. We look forward to commencing our mutually beneficial partnership which will allow CureVac to contribute its versatile technology to combat many serious infectious diseases while also benefiting from the foundation's significant network and expertise in the vaccine market. We also very much appreciate the additional commitment from our longstanding investor. We feel very well-positioned to scale up our GMP manufacturing capabilities in order to supply the world markets with our products."
Under the terms of the agreement, any Gates Foundation-funded products will be made available by CureVac at an affordable price in poor countries. CureVac will be able to merchandise each Gates-funded product in developed countries on its own, through licensees or a combination of both. In addition, the new manufacturing facility will have dedicated capacity to focus on products resulting from Gates Foundation-related projects.
CureVac, a German clinical stage biopharmaceutical company founded in 2000, is pioneering the field of mRNA-based technology platforms for medical purposes, in which unmodified mRNA is specifically optimized and formulated. CureVac has been developing novel mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies and prophylactic vaccines against infectious diseases – both under the brand RNActive®. Moreover, CureVac's technology RNArt® is designed as molecular therapy to trigger the body's own production of therapeutic proteins without stimulating the immune system.
CureVac has successfully established the first GMP (good manufacturing practice) facility worldwide for the manufacture of mRNA in 2006 and has pioneered mRNA-based drugs in various clinical studies.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people's health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.