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Ministry pays out further €114m from vaccine fund

Third company gets support in Germany’s push to combat Covid-19

Germany’s research ministry has announced financial support for a third company working on a vaccine to protect against coronavirus.

IDT Biologika will receive €114 million under a “special programme to accelerate research and development of urgently needed vaccines”. Two other biotech companies, BioNTech and CureVac, had already received funding of €375m and €252m respectively from the programme.

The latest funding round will finance IDT Biologika’s vaccine trial and the expansion of its production capacities. The research ministry made the funding decision with the help of an expert advisory board comprising representatives from the pharmaceutical industry, clinical research and regulatory authorities.

“We want and need to use multiple tracks in development if we want to ensure that vaccines are available quickly, in sufficient quantities and for different population groups,” said research minister Anja Karliczek.

The ministry added that the three companies needed help to ensure that vaccines would be made available at speed and in sufficient quantities. “With our funding, we will enable the three companies to broaden the scope of their projects and move forward more quickly,” said Karliczek. She added that the programme would accelerate vaccine development without taking risks. “Safety is an absolute priority.”

The research ministry announced its vaccine programme in June, allocating €750m for Germany-based companies developing a preventive measure against the coronavirus. Karliczek said that as a strong R&D location, Germany was responsible for supporting international as well as national research efforts and the institutions involved.

IDT Biologika is developing a vector vaccine for the immunisation of adults and risk groups against Covid-19. The company plans clinical trials in Germany, Africa and Asia. Its vaccine technology was developed at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.

The funding for BioNTech, an immunotherapy company, will help to accelerate the development and delivery of its vaccine. Together with Pfizer, the company is testing its mRNA-based vaccine candidate in a global phase 3 trial and has enrolled 37,000 participants. According to the ministry’s statement, part of the trial will be conducted in Germany.

CureVac, a biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Tübingen, is using its funding from the vaccine programme to develop, test and produce its own candidate. According to the research ministry, the firm is conducting phase 1 clinical trials and is initiating phase 2a tests in Peru and Panama.

CureVac has also received support from the government by selling around a quarter of its shares for €300m to the KfW, a German public bank. The move is intended to give the firm financial security, the finance ministry said in June.