The German government will invest €300m (£269m, $337m) for a 23% stake in Thuringia-based biotech company CureVac, which is working on a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
“The German government has decided to invest in this promising company because it expects that this will accelerate development programmes and provide the means for CureVac to harness the full potential of its technology,” said German economy minister Peter Altmaier at a press conference.
“We're sending a clear signal for CureVac here in Germany as a place to do business,” Altmaier said.
The privately-owned CureVac will retain “complete operational and strategic independence; the Federal Government will not influence corporate policy decisions,” he added.
CureVac found itself at the centre of attention in March, after several news outlets reported that the Trump administration had approached the company with an offer to secure exclusive US rights to its vaccine under development, and reportedly tried to persuade the company to move to the US.
A US official denied the report, telling AFP it was “wildly overplayed”, but German ministers were incensed, noting that a US takeover of the German company was not an option.
“German researchers are leaders in the development of medicines and vaccines, in global collaborations,” foreign minister Heiko Mass told Funke Media Group in March. “We cannot allow others to exclusively acquire their research results.”
CureVac issued a statement at the time saying it “rejects allegations about offers for acquisition of the company or its technology.”
German entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp, who co-founded software giant SAP, was CureVac’s main investor until now, owning more than 80% of its shares.
CureVac is one of two leading German biotech companies racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The other one, BioNTech (BNTX) announced in April that it had received regulatory approval to start trials of a potential vaccine on human volunteers. It is working together with US pharma giant Pfizer (PFE).