SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 13: A medical Laborato
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  • To respond to the coronavirus pandemic, drug companies have begun researching potential treatments and vaccines.
  • One of those vaccine developers, a privately held Germany biotech company called CureVac, hopes to begin testing a potential vaccine in people in June.
  • A German newspaper reported Sunday that Trump administration officials offered large sums of cash to CureVac to secure for the rights the vaccine, "but only for the USA." The company denied Monday that it has received any offers from the US government.
  • CureVac is using a genetic technology that enables much quicker development of vaccines. Called messenger RNA (mRNA), a vaccine includes only the genetic instructions to produce a protein to fight the virus.
  • Despite its speed, the mRNA platform remains unproven. There are no approved vaccines based on the technology. Other biotechs developing mRNA coronavirus vaccines include Moderna, BioNTech, and Arcturus Therapeutics.
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The sprint to develop a coronavirus vaccine is on in full force.

While dozens of research programs are underway, many of the vaccine developers that have put out the fastest timelines for bringing a vaccine into the clinic for human testing share a similarity: the technology they're relying on.

These drug companies are looking to develop a vaccine using messenger RNA (mRNA) platform technology - a novel method that has yet to produce an approved vaccine, but holds tremendous promise.

The first potential coronavirus vaccine was injected into clinical trial participants on Monday. That experimental vaccine was made by Moderna, a Massachusetts-based biotech upstart that uses an mRNA platform. BioNTech, a $9 billion German drugmaker, also said Monday it plans to start clinical testing of its mRNA vaccine in late April.

Reports of an offer, and a denial

The privately held German biotech company CureVac is also researching an mRNA vaccine. The company gained widespread attention over the weekend after the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that a Trump administration officials offered large sums of money for rights to its vaccine, "but only for the USA."

CureVac denied on Monday that it has received any such offers from the US government.

Just a few days before those reports, CureVac switched CEOs on March 11, re-installing its longtime leader and founder Ingmar Hoerr. Previous CEO Daniel Menichella left the company, effective immediately. On Monday, Hoerr took a leave of absence for medical reasons, and Deputy CEO Franz-Werner Haas was put in control of the company.

Hoerr cofounded CureVac in 2000 and served as CEO until 2018, when Menichella took over. While Hoerr is based in Germany, Menichella worked out of Boston. The company has about 500 employees and offices in Boston, Frankfurt, and Tübingen, Germany.

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