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BioNTech, CureVac bag $745M in German funding for COVID-19 vaccine hopefuls

Two German biotechs, BioNTech and CureVac, have been at the cutting edge of the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine—a time-consuming and costly process. In order to get both over the finish line, the German government is making a big investment in both candidates’ development.

The German government has awarded the mRNA-based vaccine makers a combined $745 million to drive development of their respective COVID-19 candidates. 

BioNTech, which has partnered with Pfizer to bring two versions from its BNT162 vaccine program to late-stage clinical trials, scored $445 million from Germany on Tuesday, according to a release. 

The milestone-based funding will help BioNTech advance its vaccine candidates through clinical trials and regulatory approvals, the German biotech said. One version of BNT162 is currently in phase 3 human testing and is aiming for regulatory approval as soon as October. 

Meanwhile, CureVac received its $299 million in German funding earlier this month. Based on the government’s predetermined milestones, CureVac expects to snare $122 million of that total by the end of the year. 

Germany’s big investment in those two programs comes as Pfizer and BioNTech are looking to push their candidate through regulatory approval in a month’s time.

Earlier this month, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the companies expect initial phase 3 results in late October and would be ready to ask the FDA to authorize vaccinations as soon as possible.

In fact, the company is already preparing its application to submit quickly if the vaccine shows promise, he added. The FDA has set an advisory panel meeting for October 22 to discuss COVID-19 vaccine progress.

Facing public concern that a desperate FDA would push a vaccine to market without establishing its safety, Pfizer and BioNTech executives signed an industrywide open letter saying they wouldn’t rush the science to secure an early approval. 

CureVac, meanwhile, has been working to secure supply deals for its own candidate, which is currently in phase 1 human testing. 

In August, CureVac entered advanced negotiations with the EU to supply up to 405 million doses of its shot. The biotech is aiming to enter phase 2/3 trials in the fourth quarter.