CureVac to develop mRNA-based flu, malaria vaccines with new Gates Foundation grants
With a fresh round of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, CureVac is gearing up its messenger RNA platform to develop mRNA-based vaccines for influenza and malaria infection. In particular, the partners will shoot for a universal flu vaccine, an increasingly popular research field given the evasive nature of the influenza A virus.
The two new grants build upon a collaboration that dates back to 2015, when the Gates Foundation made a $52 million equity investment in CureVac to support its tech platform and help construct a production facility. Details about the grants were not disclosed.
As the goal is to target infectious diseases that disproportionately affect people in the world’s poorest countries, CureVac agreed to make any products coming out of this partnership available at an affordable price in poor countries. In developed countries, however, CureVac can market them in any way they see fit.
“Successfully exploring the potential of the mRNA platform for development of a universal flu vaccine would be a consequential achievement, benefitting much of the world’s population,” said Ingmar Hoerr, CureVac co-founder and CEO. “Our mRNA platform enables the cost-effective and fast manufacturing of vaccines to prevent these and other serious diseases, potentially making a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.”
If successful, the universal flu vaccine would eliminate the need to develop new vaccines every year, as the protection would last through multiple seasons. To combat malaria, which caused 445,000 deaths in 2016, CureVac and the Gates Foundation plan to target Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites, one of the most dangerous kinds.
The Tübingen, Germany-based biotech has a slate of commercial partnerships going after everything from cancer vaccine to gene editing.