CureVac AG is bringing a new modality to the race for a universal flu vaccine with an mRNA program backed by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. While the company believes its approach can yield a product with a cost structure and supply chain relevant for the developing world, it faces a steady pipeline of clinical compounds based on conventional modalities.
Last week, CureVac announced it received backing from Gates for a universal flu vaccine and a vaccine against malaria. The funding comes three years after Gates made a $52 million equity investment in CureVac to support development of the company’s RNA platform and construction of an industrial-scale GMP facility.
Daniel Menichella, CBO of CureVac and CEO of its U.S. CureVac Inc. subsidiary, told BioCentury the company expects to select a clinical candidate by the end of 2020, and said Gates’ help goes beyond funding and includes coordination with academics that could help selection of an optimal vaccine design.
He would not disclose the amount of either of the new grants, although he told BioCentury the flu vaccine award is “sizable.”
The need for a universal flu vaccine has been heightened by this year’s harsh flu season. According to the CDC, the current vaccine provides only 36% protection.
A Feb. 15