CureVac desires to “go forward” with Covid vaccine regardless of research outcomes

An employee of the German biopharmaceutical company CureVac will demonstrate research on a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease in a laboratory in Tübingen on March 12, 2020.

Andreas Gebert | REUTERS

LONDON – CureVac plans to continue work on its Covid-19 vaccine despite disappointing results from clinical studies showing the vaccine is only 48% effective.

The German biotech company released its final analysis of the clinical trials of its coronavirus vaccine – known as CVnCoV – on Wednesday, confirming that the vaccine was 48% effective against Covid of all degrees of severity in all ages and 15 variants.

Pierre Kemula, CFO of CureVac, however, defended the vaccine on CNBC Thursday, saying the clinical trials were conducted at a time when several new strains of the virus were spreading around the world.

“We have to speak to the EMA now [European Medicines Agency] and want to make sure we have an open dialogue and share any data we have to assess the way forward, “he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Thursday.

When asked if it is worth developing the vaccine further when other successful vaccines are already in use in Europe and elsewhere, Kemula said the company had contractual obligations to meet.

“We have a contract with the European Commission to supply 225 million doses of the drug, so I think we need to move forward on that,” he said.

“There are a lot of vaccinations, there are a lot of people under 60 who haven’t had access to the vaccine before. So if we can contribute to the fight – in the short term in the pandemic, but also in the medium term with these other ways of [multivalents] … we are continuing to work on that. “Multivalent or polyvalent vaccines should immunize against more than one virus strain.

The results of the CureVac study, which enrolled 40,000 participants in ten countries in Latin America and Europe, showed that the vaccine was more effective in younger participants. The effectiveness rate among 18 to 60 year olds was 53% for diseases of any severity and increased to 77% for moderate and severe diseases in the same age group.

However, given that Covid-19 carries a higher risk for the elderly, the study results are disappointing, not least because two other vaccines made with messenger RNA (mRNA) – those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – have an efficacy greater than 90 % of have been shown to prevent Covid-19 infection. CureVac’s shares fell as much as 13% in Thursday’s pre-trading session.

Dr. Franz-Werner Haas, CEO of CureVac, defended the results in a statement on Wednesday, saying the vaccine “shows strong public health value” for those aged 18 to 60 and will be an “important contributor to tackling Covid.” -19 pandemic and the dynamic distribution of variants. “

He also cited “the current context of an increasingly diverse environment of Covid-19 variants”.

Several variants have emerged over the course of the pandemic, some of which are more virulent than others – like the alpha variant first discovered in the UK and the delta variant first identified in India – and Kemula said he believed mutations would continue to occur.

“As more and more people become infected with coronavirus, we are prepared for the disease to continue to develop as it progresses and has more and more variants,” said Kemula. The industry must think ahead, “how we can cope better with the current vaccines, but also possibly with various boosters (booster vaccinations),” he added.

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