One vaccine developer, CureVac, has received a generous backing from Germany’s government-owned development bank KfW, while another – Vaxcyte – went public raising $250m.
Among a number of corporate-backed funding rounds raised by life sciences companies we reported in June, there were two stories that stood out given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. CureVac, a Germany-based RNA therapy developer previously backed by pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly, raised €300m ($339m) from the German government-owned development bank KfW. The transaction gave KfW a 23% stake and came after the company took a $90m loan from the European Investment Bank in March.
Founded in 2000, CureVac develops messenger RNA (mRNA)-based drugs but its technology could also influence development of a vaccine for Covid-19. The company boasts two candidates in phase 1 clinical trials, each targeting forms of cancer. However, it recently announced it would concentrate efforts on developing a coronavirus vaccine.
CureVac was not the only vaccine developer to raise money last week. US-based vaccine developer Vaxcyte floated in a $250m initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq Global Select Market, giving an exit to pharmaceutical firm Roche. Vaxcyte issued more than 15.6 million shares, pricing them at $16.00 each, after having set a range of $14 to $16 for 14 million shares. The shares rose to $28.52 on the first day of trading. The company will combine money it raised in March with the IPO proceeds and use it to further clinical development of its lead drug candidate to combat pneumococcus, the bacteria which causes pneumonia.
Spun off by biopharmaceutical company Sutro Biopharma in 2013 and previously known as SutroVax, Vaxcyte is developing vaccines using its cell-free protein synthesis platform partially based on technology licensed from Sutro. Its lead candidate VAX-24 is expected to enter clinical trials and the IPO proceeds will also fund the expansion of Vaxcyte’s manufacturing resources.
Vaxcyte and CureVac are companies from the broader life sciences space, which has seen much corporate interest over the past decade and that interest has not dissipated throughout the first five months of 2020, as our chart below shows, with less than 40 deals each month and total estimated capital in rounds of no less than $1bn. This interest will likely continue during the pandemic and in the post-pandemic world, if we assume low interest rates.