JPM: CureVac's new pharma partner Bayer says its COVID-19 vaccine not just an also-ran

German biotech CureVac shouldn’t be discounted from being a major COVID-19 vaccine player despite being at the tail end of the race to market.

This is according to Marianne De Backer, Bayer’s head of business development who would have helped pen its vaccine deal with CureVac, speaking at the annual J.P. Morgan healthcare conference today.

“The unmatched need is enormous; we will need between 12 (billion) and 14 billion doses to get a full handle on the pandemic,” she said in response to an investor panel Q&A session Wednesday about Bayer's deal with CureVac. “So, we believe that every single company that is active in this field should continue to put all the effort in to curb this pandemic.”

The pair teamed up earlier this month, with Bayer taking up the heavy lifting on the production side. CureVac is still testing its mRNA vaccine in trials but is some way back from rivals Pfizer and fellow German biotech BioNTech as well as Moderna, which have all seen emergency use authorizations across several countries over the past two months as well as impressive 95% efficacy rates in late-stage tests.

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It started its phase 3 trial program at the very end of 2020, with early data revealed in November showing broadly positive results, although tolerability remained a concern. It still sees its 2021 target for bringing the CVnCoV vaccine to market as doable.

“As part of our strategy, we have been going out and forming relationships with innovators; CureVac was one of those and we think that using their technology of using mRNA, not just in vaccines but in other disease areas, is very, very promising," De Backer added.

“So when they had their initial study results, they were looking to scale their vaccine; so they reached out to us to see if we could do that. We immediately jumped onto that. We really think we can help them not just on production but also on the clinical, regulatory and pharmacovigilance side, as well as helping them manage their supply chain.”