CureVac bags $30M for mRNA R&D, upping total to $360M

CureVac CEO Ingmar Hoerr (center) and colleagues

CureVac has raised another $29.5 million (€26.7 million) to fund the advance of its mRNA portfolio. The fresh funding comes one year after CureVac tapped The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others for $110 million.

Tübingen, Germany-based CureVac turned to local financiers for the top-up to its bank balance. A pension fund for doctors, dentists and veterinarians and a bank, both of which are based in the same German state as CureVac, put up the money. Neither organization participated in the earlier rounds that funneled $330 million into CureVac from 2000 to 2015 and established it as a rival to Moderna Therapeutics in mRNA.

CureVac used the $330 million to establish a broad preclinical pipeline of cancer immunotherapies and preventative vaccines while also advancing its lead candidates into the clinic. The company has a pair of therapeutic vaccines in Phase I/IIa trials, one against prostate cancer, the other aimed at non-small cell lung cancer. CureVac is also testing a preventative rabies vaccine in Phase I.

The $29.5 million will enable CureVac to continue investing in its pipeline.

“We are currently testing our mRNA technology in various applications in order to translate our newest scientific findings into product development,” CureVac CEO Ingmar Hoerr said in a statement. “We are firmly convinced that a medical revolution will take place due to mRNA technology and thereby entirely new drugs and applications can be made accessible to patients in the future.”

CureVac’s confidence is underpinned by a suite of RNA technologies. Collectively, CureVac thinks the technologies enable it to code production instructions in RNA, deliver the molecules and trigger protein production in patients’ bodies. Depending on the approach, the proteins either have direct therapeutic effects or trigger an immune response. CureVac’s work on therapeutic proteins is still at the research stage.

The potential of the approach has prompted investors and biopharma companies to throw significant sums of money at Moderna and, to a lesser extent, CureVac and its compatriot BioNTech. Between them, BioNTech and CureVac have partnerships with Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly ($LLY), Roche’s ($RHHBY) Genentech and Sanofi ($SNY), making Germany something of a hot spot for the nascent mRNA field.