New year, new CEOs for Covid vaccine makers CureVac and Novavax
Two biotech companies that have been on long journeys to push through Covid vaccines are getting new CEOs this year.
CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas is stepping aside after three years in the position for a new chief who’s coming from Sanofi. Alexander Zehnder will join CureVac as CEO of the mRNA biotech on April 1, leaving his current position as global head of oncology at Sanofi. According to a CureVac representative, “it’s currently not planned” that Haas will remain on the management board after stepping down as CEO.
Meanwhile, Novavax president and CEO Stanley Erck is retiring and making way for John Jacobs to take over leadership on Jan. 23. Erck will serve as an advisor for the next 15 months. Jacobs joins Novavax from Harmony Biosciences, where he served as president and CEO.
CureVac’s Haas, whose term ends on March 31, spent more than 10 years as a member of the CureVac management board and oversaw the release of safety-focused interim Phase I data on its mRNA vaccines for Covid and the flu, causing its stock $CVAC to jump 25% earlier this month.
The Phase I trial is expected to finish in the next couple of weeks, followed by plans for a Phase I/II trial for the flu study around the middle of 2023 and a Phase II Covid trial later in the year.
Haas started as CEO at CureVac in April 2020, right after the start of the pandemic. CureVac’s new Phase I data are another attempt for the company to get back into the race after the company’s first attempt at an mRNA vaccine failed. CureVac attributed the fail, in part, to the rise of new variants.
“With our recently reported platform validation we are entering a new chapter in CureVac’s development, which marks a natural transition for me,” Haas said in its news release.
Erck, the longtime Novavax leader who was named president and CEO in 2011, led the company through the pandemic and the long-awaited FDA EUA approval of its protein-based Covid vaccine, Nuvaxovid.
Nuvaxovid won FDA authorization in July of 2022, becoming the first protein-based Covid vaccine in the US, after several delays for its EUA filing. The FDA had had concerns over heart safety issues ahead of approval, sending the company’s share prices tumbling at the time.
In November, Novavax announced that it was pulling out of a deal with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, after an alleged contract violation. The Vaccine Alliance is a global partnership working on improving vaccine access in lower-income countries.
But the company announced earlier this month that Spain and Italy recommended Nuvaxovid as a booster dose for people 18 and older, while France recommended it as a two-dose primary vaccination in adolescents ages 12 through 17.