March 13, 2020 / 8:14 PM / 18 days ago

Germany's CureVac says low-dose coronavirus vaccine could allow for mass production

TUEBINGEN, Germany (Reuters) - Germany’s CureVac, among the vaccine developers funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), said it could mass-produce a coronavirus immunization from its existing facilities if its low-dose approach proves successful in trials.

Employee Philipp Hoffmann, of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research workflow on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, March 12, 2020. Picture taken on March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert

Privately held Curevac, which was granted up to $8.3 million by CEPI in January, is working to draw on its low-dose vaccine technology, which has showed promise in an early-stage rabies trial, for use against the coronavirus.

The Tuebingen, Germany, based company hopes to have an experimental vaccine ready by June or July to then seek the go-ahead from regulators for testing on humans.

Florian von der Muelbe, Chief Production Officer and co-founder, told Reuters a mode of action that allowed for a low dosage to trigger an immune reaction against rabies would also be applied in the coronavirus setting.

“These minimal dosages that we have achieved put us in a position here in Tuebingen to produce up to 10 million doses per (production) campaign,” said von der Muelbe of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

A campaign, or production cycle, typically lasts several weeks, a spokesman specified. More than one dose may be required to immunize a person but one campaign would still serve several million people, he added.

“We started with a multitude of (coronavirus vaccine) candidates and we’re now selecting the two best out of them. Those will go into clinical trials,” said von der Muelbe.

CureVac specializes in so-called messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that instruct human cells to produce therapeutic proteins that trigger an immune response against cancer or infectious diseases.

In that field, it competes with U.S. biotech firm Moderna, which is also receiving CEPI funding, and German rival BioNTech, which Pfizer has identified as a potential collaboration partner.

Top U.S. health officials have said that it would take up to 18 months to develop any vaccine against the pathogen.

Reporting by Tilman Blasshoefer; Writing by Ludwig Burger

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