German biotech CureVac’s stock plunges 50% after its COVID-19 vaccine candidate failed a clinical trial

Medical syringes in the mini shopping trolley are seen in front of the CureVac logo displayed on a screen.
  • CureVac lost more than half its value after its COVID-19 vaccine jab showed 47% effectiveness.
  • Results were based on clinical trials conducted in Latin America and Europe on about 40,000 volunteers.
  • The company attributed its results to 29 virus strains in the 10 countries where its trials took place.
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CureVac’s shares tumbled by as much as 50% on Thursday after the German pharmaceutical firm said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate failed in a clinical trial.

Interim analysis of data from about 40,000 volunteers showed the biotech’s jab is only 47% effective, falling short of the study’s criteria and the minimum 50% effectiveness threshold required by US regulators.

Data for the late-stage clinical trials that were conducted in Latin America and Europe was released after the US close on Wednesday. The company, backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attributed its disappointing results to the fact there are at least 29 COVID-19 strains circulating in the 10 countries where its trials took place.

The Gates foundation owns about 1.7% of CureVac, or 3.1 million shares, according to Bloomberg.

CureVac’s US shares are listed on the Nasdaq and plunged after hours from $94.79 at Wednesday’s close to $49.54 at Thursday’s market open.

The 47% efficacy estimate is based on 134 COVID-cases that occurred at least two weeks after the administration of the second dose, the company said in a statement.

“While we were hoping for a stronger interim outcome, we recognize that demonstrating high efficacy in this unprecedented broad diversity of variants is challenging,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said.

CureVac said last year that it was working with Tesla on a vaccine printer, which Elon Musk reportedly called “an important product for the world.” Musk said in a tweet about the biotech in April that it “sounds like they’re a few months away from regulatory approval.” This tweet was later deleted.

The company will continue trials of its two-dose messenger RNA vaccine and expects to publish final analysis within the next few weeks.

Read More: The Fed has left rates steady while signaling 2 potential hikes by the end of 2023. Here is what to do with your stocks, bonds, and digital assets, according to top Wall Street and crypto investors.

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CureVac’s COVID-19 shot just failed in a large trial, a major setback for the Gates-backed biotech

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
An employee of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac.

  • CureVac’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine failed in a pivotal clinical study, the biotech said Wednesday.
  • It’s the first late-stage study to flop, with CureVac’s vaccine showing 47% effectiveness.
  • The German biotech saw its stock price drop by more than 50% in post-market trading.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by the German biotech CureVac failed in a critical late-stage study, the company said Wednesday.

It’s the first failure of a major vaccine candidate in a final-stage trial. CureVac said an interim analysis showed the shot was 47% effective, falling short of the study’s goals and the minimum bar for what US regulators find approvable.

The development is a setback to the world’s immunization efforts, as European officials had previously reached deals to acquire up to 405 million doses of the shot.

Despite the disappointing result, CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said the company plans to go “full speed for the final readout.” The trial is still ongoing and the final vaccine efficacy figure may vary as more COVID-19 cases are tallied.

“We are still planning for filing for approval,” Haas told The New York Times’ Carl Zimmer.

CureVac, which is backed by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, saw its stock price plummet following Wednesday’s announcement. Shares were down more than 50% in post-market trading. The foundation owns about 3.1 million shares of CureVac, or 1.7% of the company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

An independent biostatistics expert said it will be nearly impossible for CureVac’s study to still produce success. The 47% estimate of efficacy is based on 134 COVID-19 cases among study participants. “It’s not going to change dramatically,” Natalie Dean, a University of Florida biostatistician, told The Times.

CureVac blames variants, even as other vaccines hold up against different strains

In a statement, CureVac leaders said that the abundance of virus variants played a role in the result. Only one of the 134 analyzed cases resulted from the original strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the company said.

“While we were hoping for a stronger interim outcome, we recognize that demonstrating high efficacy in this unprecedented broad diversity of variants is challenging,” CureVac CEO Franz-Werner Haas said in a statement.

The disappointing result is surprising given some of the similarities CureVac’s experimental vaccine candidate had with other, highly effective immunizations. CureVac’s shot is a messenger RNA vaccine, a new technology platform that’s also used by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.

Those shots proved to be more than 90% effective in late-stage trials last year. They also appear to protect people against some major virus variants.

Other vaccines have also shown success against variants. Novavax, for instance, announced earlier this week its two-dose shot was 90% effective in a late-stage study. What’s more, Novavax’s vaccine was about 93% effective in preventing illnesses caused by variants of concern or variants of interest, the company said.

A quiet existence, until the pandemic

Since its founding in 2000, CureVac had a largely quiet existence until the pandemic. As one of the first companies trying to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, CureVac’s CEO was invited to the White House in March 2020. Shortly after, reports circulated that the US had offered a “large sum” for access to its vaccine program. CureVac disputed the reports. The company also cycled through three CEOs in the span of a week.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also drawn attention to CureVac with his tweets. A Tesla subsidiary is working with CureVac in building a “prototype of an automated manufacturing unit,” Insider reported in July.

In its Wednesday press release, CureVac focused attention on its second-generation coronavirus vaccine. Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline has partnered with CureVac on that research, paying the company roughly $235 million upfront and investing an additional $180 million in multiple deals over the past year.

CureVac said it hopes this next-generation program could start human testing by the end of September, with the goal of launching in 2022.

Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce contributed reporting.

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Elon Musk tweeted then deleted an anti-vaccine cartoon featuring Bill Gates. Here’s where their simmering feud began and how it’s escalated amid the pandemic.

Elon Musk Bill Gates
Elon Musk and Bill Gates.

  • The Elon Musk-Bill Gates feud dates back to early 2020 when Gates commented on electric cars.
  • The two moguls appear to fundamentally disagree about the coronavirus as well.
  • In April, Musk tweeted and deleted an anti-vaccine cartoon featuring Gates.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bill Gates and Elon Musk don’t exactly see eye to eye.

While the Microsoft billionaire and the Tesla and SpaceX titan have never had a particularly cozy relationship, things have heated up over the past year as the two have openly sparred about everything from electric vehicles to the coronavirus.

The two moguls are among the world’s wealthiest, eclipsed only by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. While their public spats may not always be serious, they do appear to fundamentally disagree about the coronavirus – and as major players in virus treatment and the vaccine to protect against it, their clashes carry even more weight.

Here’s where the friction between Gates and Musk began and everything that’s happened since.

Gates doesn’t appear to be a fan of Tesla vehicles, and he’s said as much publicly.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates.

In February 2020, Gates said during an interview with the YouTuber Marques Brownlee that while Tesla had helped to drive innovation and adoption of electric vehicles, he recently bought a Porsche Taycan.

Gates’ comments didn’t get by Musk, who tweeted that his conversations with Gates had always been “underwhelming.”

Elon Musk
Elon Musk.

Source: Elon Musk/Twitter

But things really heated up in July when Gates took issue with Musk’s comments on the coronavirus pandemic.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Gates criticized Musk’s comments on the virus and implied that Musk shouldn’t be speaking about the pandemic at all.

“Elon’s positioning is to maintain a high level of outrageous comments,” Gates said. “He’s not much involved in vaccines. He makes a great electric car. And his rockets work well. So he’s allowed to say these things. I hope that he doesn’t confuse areas he’s not involved in too much.”

Gates and Musk are involved in fighting the coronavirus, with Gates pledging $100 million to fight the virus via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Musk redirecting Tesla resources to source and produce ventilators and teaming up with the German biotech firm CureVac — in which Gates is an investor — to make a device to aid in vaccine production.

But since last March, Musk has frequently downplayed the severity of the virus and strongly criticized stay-at-home orders. He’s promoted the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus, falsely said that children are immune to it, and questioned coronavirus-deaths data.

Musk also said last year that there would be “close to zero new cases” by the end of April 2020. The death toll in the US alone recently surpassed 500,000.

The comments struck a nerve with Musk, who taunted Gates on Twitter.

elon musk
Elon Musk.

Musk jokingly posted multiple tweets about Gates, including “Billy G is not my lover” and “The rumor that Bill Gates & I are lovers is completely untrue.”

In September, Musk tweeted that Gates had “no clue” about electric trucks.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates.

In August, Gates wrote a blog post about electric vehicles that questioned whether it was practical to make vehicles like 18-wheelers fully electric.

Though he didn’t mention Tesla, the company does produce a semi.

A few weeks later, a Twitter user asked Musk about his opinion of Gates’ comments, to which Musk replied, “He has no clue.”

Musk called Gates a “knucklehead” for criticizing his coronavirus efforts.

Elon Musk
Elon Musk.

During a podcast interview published in September, The New York Times’ Kara Swisher asked Musk about his feelings about the virus, including whether he planned to get vaccinated.

Musk defended himself against Gates’ comments, saying he’d spent time with Harvard University epidemiologists “doing antibody studies” and noting Tesla’s work with CureVac.

“Gates said something about me not knowing what I was doing,” Musk told Swisher. “It’s like, ‘Hey, knucklehead, we actually make the vaccine machines for CureVac, that company you’re invested in.'”

In November, Musk surpassed Gates as the world’s second-richest person.

elon musk happy.JPG
Elon Musk celebrates after the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft in May 2020.

Since then, he and Jeff Bezos have flip-flopped as the world’s richest. His net worth currently stands at $175 billion, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index

Gates recently made a jab at Musk’s focus on rockets, but did also issue him a rare compliment.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates.

During an appearance on Kara Swisher’s “Sway” podcast in February, Gates said he’s not interested in pouring his money into outer space projects like his fellow billionaires, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. 

“No, I’m not a Mars person. I know a lot of Mars people,” Gates said. “I don’t think rockets are the solution. But maybe I’m missing something there.”

He went on to say that he’d rather spend his money on vaccines here on Earth than on space travel. 

But Gates did issue a rare compliment to Musk, calling what Musk has accomplished with Tesla “one of the greatest contributions to climate change anyone’s ever made.”

“Underestimating Elon is not a good idea,” he said.

Gates has also taken issue with the mania surrounding cryptocurrencies, which Musk has helped fuel online.

Bill Gates speaking on a panel .JPG
Bill Gates.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Gates shared his thoughts on cryptocurrencies.

He noted how much energy bitcoin uses, making it not very environmentally friendly. He also warned investors not to dump money into bitcoin like Tesla has.

“Elon has tons of money and he’s very sophisticated, so I don’t worry that his Bitcoin will sort of randomly go up or down,” Gates told Bloomberg.

“I do think people get bought into these manias, who may not have as much money to spare, so I’m not bullish on Bitcoin, and my general thought would be that, if you have less money than Elon, you should probably watch out,” he said. 

Musk recently tweeted, then deleted, an anti-vaccine political cartoon about Gates.

Elon Musk

The cartoon, originally created by conservative artist Ben Garrison, depicted Gates as the mastermind of a coronavirus response plan that included making people afraid, locking the country down, and then launching a “Mandatory Vaccine Rollout.”

In Musk’s version, which wasn’t sanctioned by Garrison, the last stage of the plan is a “Zune relaunch,” in reference to Microsoft’s discontinued MP3 player. 

Musk captioned the image: “Soon u will feel strange desire for Zune …” He deleted the tweet roughly two hours later. 

Gates has been at the center of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus since last year, including one theory that claimed, without evidence, that Gates wanted to use COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips into people. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

GSK and CureVac are making ‘next-generation’ vaccines that they say can tackle multiple COVID-19 variants at once

Netherlands Pfizer Vaccine Rollout
A healthcare worker in the Netherlands is given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on January 6.

  • GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac have agreed to develop new vaccines that target multiple coronavirus variants.
  • The shots, designed as boosters in case immunity from another vaccine drops, could be available 2022.
  • Research suggests existing vaccines may be less effective against some coronavirus variants.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

UK pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and German biotech CureVac plan to co-develop “next generation” vaccines that could work against multiple coronavirus variants at once, the companies announced Wednesday.

The vaccines could be available in 2022, subject to authorization, and could work as a booster if immunity from another vaccine wanes, or for people who haven’t yet been immunized, the companies said.

Research suggests existing vaccines – such as those made by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as Moderna – may be less effective against contagious coronavirus variants with certain mutations.

The companies are investing €150 million ( $180 million) in the tie-up.

The vaccines will be mRNA vaccines, which use a genetic code to trigger the body’s immune response. The COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the US, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, use the same technology. 

Existing shots are good at protecting against the original virus, but lab-based studies suggest they may not work so well against the more contagious variants, especially against a mutation found in the variant from South Africa. 

Pfizer said January 26 that it is already working on booster shots that protect against coronavirus variants. Moderna said January 25 that it would develop a new version of its COVID-19 shot to fight 501.Y.V2, the variant found in South Africa.

The mutation scientists believe helps the variant in South Africa escape antibodies, and could cause current vaccines to be less effective, has been detected in the variant found in the UK too.

UK pharma giant GSK already had a stake in CureVac, a German biotech specialized in mRNA technology that went public in August 2020. 

“This new collaboration builds on our existing relationship with CureVac and means that together, we will combine our scientific expertise in mRNA and vaccine development to advance and accelerate the development of new COVID-19 vaccine candidates,” Dame Emma Walmsley, chief executive officer at GSK, said.

GSK will also support the manufacture of up to 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine already developed by CureVac, called CVNCoV, in 2021. 

CVNCoV is in late-stage clinical trials.

GSK and Curevac said they plan to develop mRNA vaccines to protect against other illnesses that cause breathing problems too.

“With the help of GSK’s proven vaccine expertise, we are equipping ourselves to tackle future health challenges with novel vaccines,” Franz-Werner Haas, chief executive at CureVac said.

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