June 17 (Reuters) - Unlisted biotech firm CureVac on Wednesday become the second company after rival BioNTech to launch human trials of an experimental coronavirus vaccine in Germany, eyeing potential regulatory approval in mid-2021.
First meaningful results of the trial with 168 participants could be available in September or October, CureVac’s acting Chief Executive Franz-Werner Haas told an online media briefing.
A larger Phase II trial with 15,000-20,000 volunteers could start in September or October, provided first Phase I read-outs are promising. Approval could be on the cards in the middle of next year, the company said.
The vaccine is based on messenger RNA genetic material, which is injected into the body to instruct human cells to produce a harmless protein that is normally found on the surface of the new coronavirus.
The immune system sees a foreign invader in the protein and prepares an arsenal that can be levelled against the real foe in case of a coronavirus infection.
Other messenger RNA (mRNA) developers include BioNTech , Moderna, Translate Bio.
CureVac has production sites with regulatory approval in Germany with a capacity to produce hundred millions of doses and is currently building a new site that could increase its output tenfold to billions of doses.
It is also developing transportable, automated mRNA production units that it calls printers. They will be designed to be shipped to remote locations, where they can churn out the vaccine, but also other mRNA-based therapies, depending on the recipe fed into the machine.
CureVac said in a press conference on Wednesday that a similar vaccine it is developing against rabies can be stored for a year and the new vaccine would likely have the same properties. Storage at room temperature is a likely option, the group added. (Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Mark Potter)