Berlin furious at US attempt to strike exclusive deal with German vaccine firm

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
German biotech firm CureVac's HQ in the Biotechnologiezentrum Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse in Tuebingen, Germany. (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

German government ministers have condemned Washington’s move to secure exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine being developed by a German medical company and lure the firm to move to the US.

Reuters and Welt am Sonntag reported on Sunday 15 March that the Trump administration was believed to have offered CureVac a huge amount of money to ensure that the vaccine would be developed for the US exclusively. Welt am Sonntag said the sum of money offered was $1bn (£81m, €90m).

The news prompted outrage in Germany, with federal health minister Jens Spahn saying that a US takeover of CureVac was “off the table.” Spahn said that the company would make a vaccine for the world, not for individual countries.

“German researchers are leaders in the development of medicines and vaccines, in global collaborations,” foreign minister Heiko Mass told Funke Media Group. “We cannot allow others to exclusively acquire their research results.”

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A US official told AFP news agency on Sunday that the report of the US attempt to acquire CureVac was “wildy overplayed,” and that the US administration had approached many different companies about vaccines.

Tübingen-based CureVac issued a statement saying that it is “in contact with especially CEPI [Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] and many other organisations and authorities worldwide” and “rejects allegations about offers for acquisition of the company or its technology.”

The biopharma company, which was founded in 2000, is hoping to have an experimental vaccine for coronavirus ready by summer. The next stage would then be to test it on humans.

"If we are successful in developing an effective vaccine, then it should help and protect people across the world," said Dietmar Hopp of Hopp Biotech Holding, which is CureVac’s main investor.

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The German government has the right to intervene and block foreign takeovers of German companies if it deems them to be against national interests.

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