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GlaxoSmithKline takes stake in German vaccine group targeted by Donald Trump

President Trump was reported to have offered to pay for exclusive access to CureVac's COVID-19 vaccine

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GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) has teamed up with the German vaccine specialist that was offered “large sums of money” by US President Donald Trump for its coronavirus vaccine.

GSK and CureVac have signed a strategic collaboration agreement to research, develop, manufacture and bring to market up to five vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) based on their mRNA technology and targeting infectious diseases. 

READ: Why do vaccine trials take so long?

The FTSE 100 company could pay up to £866mln, including development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments for the research, development, manufacturing and commercialisation of up to five mRNA-based vaccines and monoclonal antibodies (mAbs).

CureVac's existing COVID-19 mRNA and rabies vaccines research programmes are not included in this collaboration.

GSK, which said it existing mRNA capabilities will be complemented by CureVac's integrated mRNA platform, will pay £104mln upfront and another £130mln for a 10% equity stake as part of the strategic collaboration, plus a one-time reimbursable payment of £26mn for manufacturing capacity reservation for the facility in Germany.

Using mRNA technology promises to significantly speed up development and manufacturing as mRNA enables protein synthesis in the human body, carrying the genetic code required for cells to manufacture and express proteins. 

By using mRNA technology in vaccines — as US-based Moderna is doing with its vaccine candidate against COVID-19 — specific antigens can be produced by the body's own cells, triggering the immune system to produce a defensive response to  fight the disease.

“GSK's self-amplifying mRNA (SAM) vaccine technology has shown us the potential of mRNA technology to advance the science of vaccine development, and CureVac's experience complements our own expertise,” said Roger Connor, president of GSK’s vaccines arm.

“Through the application of mRNA technology, including SAM, we hope to be able to develop and scale up advanced vaccines and therapies to treat and prevent infectious diseases quicker than ever before." 

CureVac’s Franz-Werner Haas said: “With this collaboration, we are gaining a world-class partner whose expertise and global footprint will allow us to further develop and translate the value of our platform into potential products for the world.”

In March, a German newspaper reported that President Trump had offered to pay for exclusive access to CureVac's Covid-19 vaccine.

The German government fought off what it saw as an aggressive takeover bid by the US, according to Die Welt, which cited German government officials.

Subsequently, the German government said it was investing €300mln for a 23% stake in unlisted CureVac to help fund the COVID-19 vaccine.

GSK shares were down 2% to 1,633p in early trade on Monday.

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