GlaxoSmithKline Buys Stake in German Coronavirus Vaccine Developer CureVac

GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK) is plowing more capital into messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine development. It has bought a nearly 10% stake in privately held German biotech CureVac for 130 million British pounds ($163 million), both companies announced in a joint press release published Monday morning.

As part of the deal, GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac will collaborate on the research, development, and potential marketing of up to five mRNA-based vaccines and monoclonal antibodies that target infectious diseases. CureVac will be eligible for up to 606 million pounds in milestone payments, plus royalties.

Although CureVac is currently developing an mRNA-based vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, that program is not covered under the GlaxoSmithKline collaboration deal. GlaxoSmithKline is conducting its own coronavirus vaccine research and development activities.

A syringe being filled with a vaccine from a vial

Image source: Getty Images.

Conveying instructions on how to make proteins from DNA to cells, mRNA is a white-hot area of vaccine research just now, thanks in no small part to American biotech Moderna. In vaccine candidates, mRNA can theoretically be utilized to instruct the body to manufacture the antibodies needed to combat the coronavirus.

Although Moderna's mRNA-1273 specifically targets the coronavirus (as does CureVac's candidate), mRNA technology can -- again, theoretically -- be leveraged to fight many afflictions. It should be noted, however, that mRNA is a relatively new field of vaccine research and has yet to be approved in any vaccine on the market. Moderna's candidate is currently about to enter phase 3 clinical testing.

CureVac, into which the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation invested $52 million in January 2015 and the German government 300 million euros ($343 million) last month, is planning to go public in September or October.

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