German pharmaceutical company CureVac is pulling the plug on its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine, but the company isn't abandoning research into a COVID-19 vaccine altogether. However, it might be a while before a CureVac vaccine will be available.
The company announced that it’s withdrawing its first-generation mRNA COVID-19 vaccine from the approval process with the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The earliest approval for the vaccine wouldn’t be until the second quarter of 2022. By that time, the vaccine would be behind the eight ball in the vaccine world, which is already dominated by vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
“The pandemic window is closing,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas told The New York Times.
The company also canceled a contract with the European Commission to supply 405 million doses of an approved vaccine, The New York Times reported.
CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine only had 48 percent efficacy.
CureVac’s vaccine had disappointing results in clinical trials earlier this year that showed its efficacy was only 48 percent, The New York Times reported. The vaccine’s efficacy was slightly higher at 53 percent for 18–60 years olds. Both Pfizer and Moderna have efficacies of about 95 percent.
CureVac switches focus to COVID-19 vaccine collaboration with GSK.
CureVac isn’t totally giving up on finding a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Instead, it's switching gears to focus on a second-generation mRNA vaccine in collaboration with pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
Together, CureVac and GSK plan to accelerate the development of a second-generation vaccine that it hopes to start clinical trials on in the next few months. If all goes according to plan, the new and improved COVID-19 vaccine could have regulatory approval in 2022.
“The global fight against COVID-19 continues, and we remain committed to making a difference with a safe and efficacious vaccine. This goal has not changed, but the requirements to effectively address the virus and emerging variants have changed,” Haas said in a statement.
He said, “In the ongoing transition from acute pandemic to endemic, our decision to withdraw CVnCoV from the regulatory approval process and focus our efforts on second-generation mRNA vaccine candidates reflects expected changes in public health needs that our second generation can potentially address.”
The new and improved CureVac-GSK COVID-19 vaccine shows strong improvement over CureVac’s first candidate, GSK head of vaccines Rino Rappuoli said in a statement. When tested on monkeys, the CureVac-GSK vaccine shows ten times the number of antibodies as the previous vaccine, the company says.
The two companies have been collaborating since July 2020. Besides working on a COVID-19 vaccine that can target different variants of the virus, the CureVac-GSK partnership is also looking into possible combined booster shots that fight against COVID-19 and influenza.
FDA considers Moderna and J&J booster shots this week.
The FDA already approved booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose COVID-19 vaccines.