Curevac shares slump as Covid vaccine reports 47% efficacy

Nasdaq-traded shares in Tübingen-based firm collapsed by almost half following admission

For months the company has insisted its product had a high efficacy rate and would be ready for approval by the European authorities by early June at the latest. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/ Getty Images

For months the company has insisted its product had a high efficacy rate and would be ready for approval by the European authorities by early June at the latest. Photograph: Thomas Kienzle/ Getty Images

 

Hopes for Germany’s second Covid-19 vaccine are fading after pharmaceuticals company Curevac admitted its much-delayed mRNA jab has an efficacy rate of only 47 per cent.

Nasdaq-traded shares in the Tübingen-based firm collapsed by almost half in late trading after the company’s admission that their jab, developed in partnership with Bayer, does “not meet prespecified statistical success criteria”.

“While we were hoping for a stronger interim outcome, we recognise that demonstrating high efficacy in this unprecedented broad diversity of variants is challenging,” said chief executive Franz-Werner Haas in a statement. “There is a huge need for vaccine, and I think we can still make a contribution.”

An interim study of data collected from 40,000 volunteers, including 134 Covid cases, showed the vaccine was 47 per cent effective. In their research, CureVac scientists genetically sequenced 124 of the 134 cases they included in their analysis. One is the original Sars-CoV-2 virus identified in Wuhan, China, while the rest are variants.

Major disappointment

The news is a major disappointment for the German state – and taxpayer. Last year Berlin’s federal economics ministry spent €300 million through its state-owned KfW bank to secure a 20 per cent equity stake in vaccine producer Curevac.

For months the company has insisted its product had a high efficacy rate and would be ready for approval by the European authorities by early June at the latest.

Curevac founder Ingmar Hoerr, a pioneer of the mRNA technology used in next-generation vaccines, insisted his company’s product would be more flexible and require only regular refrigerator storage.

Last year, the firm was overtaken by its Mainz-based rival BioNTech. Its mRNA vaccine, though requiring deep-freeze storage temperatures, has an efficacy of over 90 per cent, even with newer virus variants.

As BioNTech reached market first last year, Curevac found itself at the centre of a perfect storm. Hoerr dropped out of sight just as rumours began to spread that the Trump administration had made an approach to buy the company.

“From the outside it looked like a bad conspiracy, it was utterly surreal,” said Dr Friedrich von Bohlen, a major Curevac investor, to The Irish Times last month. “Ingmar had a stroke, that’s true, but we had no knowledge of any Trump offer, I think it is a legend.”

The news will be a disappointment, too, for Tesla billionaire Elon Musk who had partnered with Curevac on a so-called “vaccine printer” to ramp up production.

In April on Twitter, he repeated company claims it was “a few months away from regulatory approval”. He later deleted the tweet claiming that “a tidal wave of vaccine is coming this summer”.