Dietmar Hopp, the billionaire majority shareholder in CureVac (CVAC) said that the German biotech will likely not be first in the global race to produce a COVID-19 vaccine, but that it plans to have more than 100 million doses available by the end of this year.
In an interview with German business daily Handelsblatt, Hopp, who co-founded German software giant SAP, said that CureVac will “certainly” not beat its main competitors — US-based Moderna and partners BioNTech and Pfizer (PFE), who already have their vaccine candidates in Phase three mass human trials.
“But we want to win the race for the best vaccine, and there we have good chances,” Hopp told the newspaper.
Curevac, which went public on the Nasdaq in August, counts the German government and AstraZenica (AZN.L) amongst its investors.
Tesla’s German subsidiary Grohmann Automation is cooperating with CureVac to develop a special RNA printer to produce vaccines in large quantities at speed. Musk and CureVac presented the printer to the Christian Democrats at at their parliamentary day on Wednesday (2 September).
Hopp said in the interview, published Friday 4 September, that he would like to start mass production in Autumn this year, but does not envisage regulatory approval happening before Spring or even Summer next year. "All the results so far indicate good safety, tolerability and effectiveness," he said of the CureVac mRNA vaccine candidate.
Hopp said that there is a possibility that the vaccine will be approved this year “on the basis of interim data, for example for certain, particularly vulnerable occupational groups or regions."
The head of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany’s vaccine regulator, said in August the first coronavirus vaccinations for certain groups of people could start as soon as the beginning of 2021.
“If data from phase three trials shows the vaccines are effective and safe, the first vaccines could be approved at the beginning of the year, possibly with conditions attached,” Institute president Klaus Cichutek said.
Currently, there are seven vaccines in phase three trials. A recent report from Deutsche Bank Research notes that, on average, once a vaccine for an infectious disease makes it to phase-three trials, it has an 85 % chance of being approved. “As there are currently seven in phase-three trials, this implies six could be approved.”