Germany’s CureVac has historically kept a lower profile than BioNTech and Moderna, relying largely on its billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp for money and striking fewer big-ticket deals than its mRNA rivals. That had begun to change under the leadership of Daniel Menichella, who arrived with a brief to land deals, and the transition has accelerated as CureVac has sought funding for its COVID-19 shot.
CureVac tapped investors including the German government and GlaxoSmithKline for $640 million to support its work against the coronavirus and other diseases earlier this year. That done, CureVac is now turning to US public investors for more money.
If CureVac hits the upper end of its IPO price range and sells out the overallotment, the offering will generate gross proceeds of $245 million. Hopp, whose dievini Hopp Biotech Holding fund owns more than half of CureVac, is set to invest a further €100 million ($118 million) in a private placement.
The IPO money will continue the rapid evolution of CureVac’s financial position. At the end of March, CureVac had €43.5 million in cash and cash equivalents. That figure is set to balloon to around €800 million by the time the IPO is finished.
CureVac has earmarked $150 million of the money to fund development of its COVID-19 vaccine through to the completion of a phase 3 clinical trial. A further $50 million is set aside to fund the expansion of CureVac’s “short term manufacturing capabilities.”
The sums represent a steep increase in spending. CureVac spent less than $400,000 on development of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in the first quarter of 2020. Spending on clinical trials of the vaccine will contribute to an anticipated significant increase in R&D costs this year. A $15.3 million commitment from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will cover some of the COVID-19 spending.
CureVac is lagging behind the frontrunners in the closely watched COVID-19 vaccine race. While fellow German mRNA specialist BioNTech is already in phase 2b/3 and is aiming to seek regulatory review as early as October, CureVac does not expect to start its pivotal trial before the fourth quarter.
Data from an ongoing early-phase trial are due around the same time. At the time of its IPO filing, CureVac had completed dosing of the low dose but still needed to enroll almost 50 subjects at sites in Belgium and Germany in the three higher-dose arms. The phase 1 data will inform the selection of the phase 2b/3 dose.
How long the 20,000-subject phase 2b/3 clinical trial, which will enroll subjects at sites in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, takes will depend in part on the level of coronavirus transmission at the time. The lower the level of COVID-19 in the community, the longer it will take CureVac to show if its vaccine prevents infection.