British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is investing £130m ($163m) and taking a 10% stake in CureVac, one of the leading German biotech companies working on a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus.
Under the terms of the deal, GSK said it will make an upfront cash payment of £104m, and the two companies will collaborate on a number of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines and research programmes.
Earlier this month CureVac secured a €75m (£68m, $85m) loan from the European Investment Bank, the European Union’s prime lender, to fund its development and production of a COVID-19 vaccine.
CureVac became the centre of attention in March, after it was reported that the US administration had approached the firm, which is based in Tübingen in the state of Baden-Württemberg, with a large offer in order to secure exclusive rights to its vaccine in development, and attempted to persuade it to relocate to the US.
German politicians reacted angrily to the reports, and the government subsequently invested €300m in the privately-owned biotech firm in June, taking a 23% stake.
“We're sending a clear signal for CureVac here in Germany as a place to do business,” German economy minister Peter Altmaier said at the time of the investment announcement.
BioNTech received regulatory approval to start trials of a vaccine on human volunteers in April. CureVac started its first human trials in June, and said it expects the first results could be in as soon as September or October.
The British government, which has signed a vaccine supply agreement with AstraZeneca (AZN.L), which is working with Oxford University, announced on Monday additional agreements, including for 90 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech, and France’s Valneva (VLA.PA).
This article has been corrected to show that CureVac is based in Tübingen, not Thuringia, as previously stated.