Pharmaceutical companies from Germany and China are joining forces in the corona crisis to develop a vaccine against the COVID-19. The Mainz-based biotech company Biontech intends to work together with the Chinese drug producer Fosun Pharma.
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China will invest €120 million in the German biotech company Biontech
Biontech will receive up to $129 million (€120 million) from China for research, $47 million (€44 million) of which will be in exchange for Biontech shares, the company announced on Monday, March 16th. The 1.58 million shares come from a capital increase, and Fosun Pharma thereby will acquire a 0.7 percent stake in Biontech.
The biotech start-up company is planning to test the new vaccine in humans for the first time at the end of April, once the official approvals have been granted. In addition to the vaccine, Biontech is also planning to develop a drug for the treatment of people already suffering from the new coronavirus. Fosun will market the vaccine in China, while Biontech retains full rights for the rest of the world.
Pharmaceutical companies around the world are in a race to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, including the Tübingen-based biotech company Curevac and big companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Moderna. Recently, there have been signs of a dispute between national governments over medical equipment and the right to therapeutics.
The US is apparently courting Biontech rival Curevac. However, the main shareholders of Curevac, in particular SAP founder Dietmar Hopp, do not want to make the vaccine available to just one country.
The biotech company assured that a takeover by an American company or by the U.S. is not in the offing.
Biotech start-ups use the corona crisis as an opportunity to develop
For its coronavirus vaccine, Biontech is also in advanced discussions with its existing partner Pfizer on the development of the vaccine outside China. Earlier this month, the US pharmaceutical giant announced that it was considering collaborating with Pfizer on the development of a vaccine.
Biontech is relying on its proprietary mRNA platform. A vaccine based on the messenger molecule messenger RNA (mRNA) could potentially be developed and produced faster than conventional vaccines. Biontech is planning to produce the vaccine for clinical trials in cooperation with its partner Polymun at its production sites in Europe.
Founded in 2008, the company specializes in the development of personalized immune therapies for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases. Its partners include pharmaceutical giants such as Pfizer and Sanofi. The Strüngmann brothers, who sold the generic drug manufacturer Hexal to Novartis, are the main investors.
With a company valuation of $2.48 billion (€2.3 billion), Biontech was counted as Unicorn for the first time last autumn in the report “Startup & Venture Capital Landscape in DACH” by Speedinvest-X and Frontline Ventures.
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First published in GRUNDERSZENE, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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