German biotech company CureVac has joined the global effort to boost coronavirus vaccine supplies by signing up pharmaceuticals giant Bayer and contract drugmaker Rentschler to help to produce its experimental COVID-19 jab.
Chief executive officer Franz-Werner Haas said on Monday his company was aiming to produce several hundred million doses of its vaccine by the end of the year.
Due to the cooperation with Bayer, it expects to be able to make between 600 million and one billion doses in 2022, Haas added.
CureVac is a pioneer in the so-called messenger RNA approach for developing vaccines and monoclonal antibodies for infectious diseases.
The Tuebingen-based company made its Nasdaq debut in August, weeks after announcing that Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) had taken an undisclosed stake in the firm as part of a $126m financing round.
CureVac said at the time the sum had been raised from QIA and a group of existing and new investors.
The company’s mRNA vaccine has yet to receive the green light from regulators, but German Health Minister Jens Spahn said it was “on its way to approval in the coming weeks”.
Spahn noted that the CureVac vaccine provided long-term prospects, for example, if people need booster shots later in the year.
“Following discussions with the German government, it has become clear that current manufacturing capacities for vaccines need to be increased, particularly for potential variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” Stefan Oelrich, president of Bayer’s pharmaceuticals division, said in an online conference together with CureVac and government officials.
He added Bayer is currently not looking at taking a stake in the business that is also backed by investors Dietmar Hopp, the Gates Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline and the German government.
Bayer has not yet manufactured vaccines but Oelrich insisted it has the “necessary skills and capabilities … to manufacture CureVac’s mRNA-based vaccine”.
Separately, CureVac said it had teamed up with contract drugmaker Rentschler to ramp up production.
Manufacturing processes are being tested at Rentschler’s site in Laupheim in southwest Germany, which is expected to produce more than 100 million doses a year, the two companies said.
European governments have faced criticism over supply and production bottlenecks as vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna have announced cuts to deliveries just when they were expected to ramp up production.