GSK and CureVac’s COVID-19 candidate shows promise in pre-clinical study

Months after major setback in late phase trial, latest study restores confidence as duo play catch-up.

After suffering a major blow back in June after its late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial disappointed, the German company CureVac has come back to announce a promising set of results from a pre-clinical study done collaboration with GSK. The recent study involved the company’s first-generation vaccine candidate, CVnCoV, as well as its second-generation vaccine candidate, CV2CoV, in non-human primates. According to a statement published on CureVac’s website, “better activation of innate and adaptive immune responses was achieved with CV2CoV, resulting in faster response onset, higher titers of antibodies and stronger memory B and T cell activation as compared to the first-generation candidate, CVnCoV”. The statements also highlights that “higher antibody neutralizing capacity was observed with CV2CoV across all selected variants, including the Beta, Delta and Lambda variants”.

The encouraging news come as GSK is looking to play catch-up on the COVID-19 vaccine front, having fallen behind in the race in comparison to its peers. “The mRNA technology is a key strategic priority for us, and we are investing significantly in a number of mRNA programs focused on the collaboration with CureVac,” said Dr. Rino Rappuoli, Chief Scientist and head of GSK Vaccines R&D. A few months ago, CureVac announced that its CVnCoV candidate only showed efficacy of about 47% effective against COVID-19 in a late-stage study – remarkably lower than the 95% or so efficacy showed by rivals such as Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna for their mRNA vaccines. After the flop, CureVac shifted focus to its partnership with GSK to further work on CV2CoV as new virus variants were emerging.