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Investor Dietmar Hopp wants to win 'race for the best Covid-19 vaccine' with CureVac

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BERLIN, 4 Sep (APM) - German biotech CureVac is seeking to "win the race for the best vaccine" against Covid-19 and has "a good chance", said its main investor Dietmar Hopp in an interview with Handelsblatt published on Friday (p44-51).
It means the vaccine having "a good efficacy and long-lasting protection at the lowest possible dose", which will "reduce production costs and thus the price", he said.
"We are very confident about obtaining a marketing authorisation," Hopp added. CureVac are unlikely to be the first to launch a mRNA-based vaccine against Covid-19, he added, as competitor BioNTech and Moderna are ahead in the development.
CureVac will not set up a large marketing organisation for the vaccine, Hopp said. "Once the vaccine is approved, it will be no problem to find a partner with global distribution structures."
Hopp justified CureVac going public on the U.S. Nasdaq - and not on the German stock market - for two reasons: the U.S. stock corporation law is more fit for risky businesses like biotechs; there are hardly any analysts who understand the business model of biotech companies in depth in Germany.
Handelsblatt's survey covers all Hopp's business and charity, from the foundation of software company SAP in 1972 to his €1.4 billion investment in biotech and support to sport and social work.
Hopp, who started investing in biotechs in 2004, owns stake in 10 companies through Dievini Hopp Bioytech Holding and has invested €1.4 billion: CureVac, Heidelberg Pharma, Immatics, AC Immune, Cosmo Pharmaceuticals, Casiopea Spa, Apogenix, Molecular Health, Novaliq and Joimax.
Five of them are fully or at least partially invested in the field of cancer diagnostics and therapy, mostly still in the early clinical trials or preclinical testing phase.
Besides CureVac, Immatics, which has specialised in tumour-specific receptors, has the most dynamic development. It has agreed several partnerships with big pharma companies and went public in June on the U.S. Nasdaq.

Elon Musk visits CureVac

Tesla's chief executive Elon Musk made a visit to the headquarters of vaccine developer CureVac in the course of his trip to Germany, widely covered by Handelsblatt on Wednesday (p16, 29), Thursday (p10-11) and Friday (p12) and also by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) (p26) and Die Welt (p4) on Thursday.
Grohmann Automation, part of Tesla since 2016, has been working with CureVac on RNA "micro-factories" since 2015, Handelsblatt said. The prototype is already running but has not yet been approved as a GMP-certified facility. No further details were given following Musk's visit.
These units, also called RNA printers, would enable the rapid production of CureVac's Covid-19 mRNA vaccine but also other mRNA-based drugs in a very flexible way at the site of a disease event, said CureVac's main investor Hopp in an interview with Handelsblatt on Friday (p44-47).
This is "completely new" and "ideal for outbreaks such as a pandemic", Hopp said.
Musk's trip to Germany, during which he met Economy Minister Peter Altmaier and Health Minister Jens Spahn and came to the construction site of Tesla's Gigafactory plant near Berlin, is "a bow to the German spirit of research", said Handelsblatt.

U.S. approval for first Covid-19 vaccine planned for 1 November

U.S. approval for the first Covid-19 vaccine could be granted as early as 1 November, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced discussing first results from several late-stage studies on 22 October, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reports on Friday (p11).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines on reimbursement and distribution of a vaccine in 50 states from the end of October and has asked the states to prepare the distribution.

Sanofi and GSK start clinical testing of Covid-19 vaccine candidate

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline have started Phase I/II testing of their protein-based Covid-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. in 440 participants, with first data expected for the beginning of December, FAZ reports on Friday (p21) (APMHE 68760).
The companies plan to start Phase III testing at the end of the year, to file for approval in the first half of 2021 and to supply more than one billion doses in 2021. Manufacturing capacities for the vaccine are being built up in parallel to clinical testing.

EU wants to sign more Covid-19 vaccine deals

The European Union wants to conclude further agreements for the supply of Covid-19 vaccine, EU commissioner Stella Kyriakides told Handelsblatt on Thursday (p12)
The signing of the first contract with AstraZeneca (APMHE 68553) "was a crucial first step" while talks are ongoing with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithkline, Johnson & Johnson, CureVac and Moderna.
Kyriakides is working on an EU pharmaceutical strategy to strengthen Europe's position as an innovative producer of medicines and medical technology which she it intends to present before the end of 2020. "A viable European pharmaceutical industry is of strategic interest for public health, economic growth, trade and science," she told Handelsblatt.

Three quarters intend to be vaccinated against Covid-19

An Ipsos survey, conducted among 20,000 people in 27 countries on behalf of the World Economic Forum, shows that 74% would get a vaccine for Covid-19 if it were available, but only 67% in Germany, Die Welt said on Thursday (p10).
According to the survey, 36% of Germans are explicitly planning a Covid-19 vaccination, 31% agree with the statement while 20% would rather not get immunised and 13% are sure that they do not want one - which makes a third being against vaccination.
Even if the 67% approval rate is high, especially for a new, not-yet approved vaccine, this is significantly lower than for standard vaccinations, such as chickenpox or rubella, where the rates are over 90%, Die Welt said.
The countries where Covid-19 vaccination intent is highest are China (97%), followed by Brazil, Australia, India, UK and South Korea, each 85% to 90%. In the U.S., 67% of people want to be vaccinated.
Even more sceptical than the Germans are, for example, the Italians (34% rejection), the French (41%), the Poles (45%) and the Russians (46%).
According to Arnaud Bernaert, from the World Economic Forum, "the deficit of vaccine confidence is enough to impair the effectiveness of the introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine".

WHO 'urgently' recommends inexpensive corticosteroids in Covid-19

The World Health Organization has published the "urgent recommendation" to use inexpensive corticosteroids to "considerably lower the mortality" in severe Covid-19, FAZ reports on Friday (p6).
The number of deaths could be reduced by up to 20% in patients at intensive care units, who need mechanical ventilation and are at risk for organ failure - 87 patients per thousand.

Nasal Covid-19 vaccine candidate may be stuck in early development

A nasal Covid-19 vaccine candidate discovered by professor Ulrich Lauer at Tübingen University, may be stuck in early development, as pharma companies are fixated on the first wave on Covid-19 vaccine candidates, which are all injectables, FAZ said on Thursday (p9).
Lauer told FAZ that his candidate has shown promise to block the disease and spreading of the virus creating a "sterilising immunity", which could not be guaranteed using vaccine shots. It is based on a Sendai virus as a vector, which does not cause an immunoreaction in humans.

Innoplexus used AI to identify potential antiviral against Covid-19

German tech start-up Innoplexus has used its artificial intelligence platform to identify novel molecules that could have a potential as antiviral against Covid-19, chief executive Gunjan Bhardwaj told Die Welt on Saturday (p16).
The start-up will start preclinical testing with the most promising molecules in 2020 and "hopefully the clinical studies as early as 2021", he said
The company will shortly conclude a financing round. The CEO will would consider a stock market flotation in the next 12 to 18 months.

Fresenius confirms outlook of 3% to 6% sales increase

Fresenius has confirmed its outlook of a 3% to 6% increase of group sales this year, predicted at the end of July (PMHE 68368), chief executive Stephan Sturm said at the annual meeting, FAZ reported on Saturday (p23).
Sturm said that Fresenius convinced the government to lift the export restriction for protective equipment to keep one of its manufacturing sites of the group's drug division Kabi operational, which is located in Austria and manufactures painkiller propofol.

Nestlé buys allergy specialist Aimmune for $2.6 billion

Swiss food and beverage giant Nestlé has announced it is buying U.S-based biotech Aimmune, whose only marketed product is peanut allergy treatment Palforzia, in a $2.6 billion deal, FAZ reported on Tuesday (p20) (APMHE 68712).
Nestlé, which currently holds 25% of Aimmune, will pay shareholders $34.50 a share - a premium 174% compared to last week's closing price. This is a "prodigious price", as it is the triple of Aimmune's market value and Palforzia sales have been low, FAZ said.
However, peak sales of more than $1 billion have been predicted for Palforzia following EU approval, which is expected at the end of the year.

U.S. judge threatens Bayer with retrial in glyphosate case

U.S. Judge Vince Chhabria has threatened Bayer with a retrial in glyphosate case, criticising the lack of progress in the final stages of the $11 billion settlement reached by Bayer, said FAZ on Saturday (p27) and Handelsblatt on Monday (p21).
In a hearing last week, Chhabria strongly criticised Bayer's presentation of the settlement in June, saying it was less defined than Bayer had presented. He also said he was considering making public several confidential letters from plaintiffs' lawyers, accusing Bayer of not complying with the agreement.
Chhabria set a new hearing on 24 September to discuss progress.
Bayer remained confident in the finalisation of the settlement over the coming month without restarting litigation. "There are often some bumps in the road in implementing a resolution of this magnitude" the company said.
On Wednesday, Bayer asked California's Supreme Court to review a decision awarding $20.5 million in the Dewayne Johnson case, arguing the ruling was at odds with federal law and settled legal principles, reported Die Welt on Thursday (p9).
Johnson was first awarded $289.2 million, reduced to $78 million in October 2018 and $20.5 million in July

Bayer buys vitamins start-up Care/Of for $225 million

Bayer is planning to buy for $225 million dietary supplements online vendor Care/Of, which was founded only four years ago, according to Bloomberg, FAZ reported on Wenesday (p18).
A Bayer spokesperson said that Care/Of's portfolio could be expanded to traditional retailer channels. Bayer does not hold back in acquisitions in the Covid-19 pandemic, FAZ said.



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