As pharmaceutical companies worldwide scramble to develop a vaccine for the Corvid-19 coronavirus, US President Donald Trump attempted to secure the exclusive rights to a possible cure. CureVac, a Germany-based company, was one of nearly two dozen research firms invited to the brief Trump at the White House on March 2. Discussions at the meeting ultimately led to the Trump administration pressing CureVac to make its eventual vaccine available first in America and possibly exclusively, the New York Times reported.
Denials All Around
“We are very confident that we will be able to develop a potent vaccine candidate within a few months,” said former CureVac CEO Daniel Menichella. But then something curious happened: exactly one week later, Menichella, an American, resigned his position with no explanation given.
That’s when a report emerged in the Welt am Sonntag German newspaper that Trump offered a financial incentive—$1 billion—to CureVac, perhaps to convince it to even move to the US, Reuters reported. It went on to allege that Berlin had made counteroffers to keep it in Germany.
As the story brew, an unnamed US official said, “This story is wildly overplayed … We will continue to talk to any company that claims to be able to help. And any solution found would be shared with the world.”
US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell also issued a denial tweeting, “Not true. The Welt story was wrong. But Business Insider, Reuters and others went with it anyway despite not having their own sources. Now everyone is back peddling.”
However, no media outlet has retracted its story on Trump approaching CureVac with a wad of cash in exchange for vaccine exclusivity. Giving further credence to the claims, the German government is taking the matter seriously and the topic was set for discussion at a Monday meeting of the coronavirus crisis committee. Although details from the meeting have yet to be released publicly, Berlin has confirmed ongoing discussions with CureVac.
Berlin Steps In
“The German government is very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Europe,” said a German Health Ministry spokeswoman. “In his regard, the government is in intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”
CureVac has since denied any possible deal between it and the Trump administration and said it is developing a vaccine “to protect people worldwide.” It also issued a press release Sunday declaring, “The company rejects current rumours of an acquisition.”
The public statement drew support from Peter Altmaier, German economic minister.
“It was a great decision,” he said on Sunday. “Germany is not for sale.” Any foreign takeover of the company would meet resistance from Berlin, he said.
“When it’s about important infrastructure and national and European interest, we will also act if we have to.”
CureVac investors, particularly Christof Hettich, chief executive of Dievini Hopp Biotech Holding. He affirmed his belief that a vaccine should be “for the whole world, and not for individual states,” in an interview with Mannheimer Morgen newspaper.
Any Solution Should be Global
The administration’s approach to solving the Corvid-19 crisis has been multifaceted and at times chaotic. The president initially downplayed the threat as Democratic hoax and delayed declaring a national emergency. As global stock markets have continued to tank, Trump has been rushed into finding waves to soften the damage, but that can only come when the world sees some positive results.
To that end, Trump needs a better policy on coronavirus. Leadership from his administration has thus far amounted to pressuring pharmaceutical companies into developing a cure sooner, but that process simply cannot be expedited. In lieu of a speedy solution, Trump is hoping to secure exclusive rights to a vaccine, once it is developed, but the rest of the world is not so keen to allow that to happen. Germany, in particular, did not take the news of Trump attempting to poach CureVac lightly.
A global crisis demands a global result, and thankfully pharmaceutical companies like CureVac understand that.