CureVac banks $213M IPO to push COVID-19 vaccine, boost manufacturing

Franz-Werner Haas, interim CEO of CureVac
CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas (CureVac)

On the heels of a $640 million private round, Germany’s CureVac has netted $213 million in its Nasdaq debut. The bulk of the proceeds will bankroll its mRNA vaccine for COVID-19, with the rest going to manufacturing, platform development and other programs.

The company also picked up another $118 million through a private placement to longtime investor, Dietmar Hopp, according to Renaissance Capital. All of this cash comes in even before CureVac’s COVID-19 candidate has put up any human data.

Like its peers, Moderna and tandem BioNTech/Pfizer, CureVac is developing an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But it is trailing its peers, whose candidates are already in late-stage trials. CureVac secured approvals from Belgian and German authorities in June to conduct a phase 1 trial. That’s not to say CureVac should be counted out—in pandemic that will likely need as many vaccines as possible, it will still have a potentially big role in the R&D effort.

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The company will spend about $150 million of its IPO proceeds push its COVID-19 vaccine program through a phase 3 study and about $50 million to expand its short-term manufacturing capabilities, it said in a securities filing.

It earmarked another $25 million for its lead cancer program, CV8102, which is in phase 1 for various cancers, including melanoma and head and neck cancers, and about $10 million for its rabies vaccine, CV7202, also in phase 1. The capital should push them both through phase 2 studies, according to the filing. Finally, about $65 million will go toward developing its mRNA technology platform and advancing its other preclinical and clinical programs.

The IPO comes a week after CureVac signed a new chief scientific officer, Novartis alum Igor Splawski, Ph.D., and settled on a full-time CEO after months of executive musical chairs. Daniel Menichella, the company’s CEO since 2018, mysteriously exited in March and was replaced by the man he, in fact, replaced two years earlier: Ingmar Hoerr, CureVac’s founding CEO.

A week later, CureVac announced Hoerr would take a temporary leave of absence for medical (but not COVID-19-related) reasons and installed deputy CEO Franz-Werner Haas in Hoerr’s role “until his return.” But return he did not and earlier this month, Haas took “interim” off his job title.