One more hit to Moderna Therapeutics struck by its German competitor CureVac! The Tübingen-based company just announced the opening of its subsidiary in Boston – hometown of Moderna – and a research collaboration with the U.S. non-profit International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to develop a mRNA-based HIV treatment.

CureVac, today announced the official launch of its U.S. operations in Boston-Cambridge, MA to extend the company’s footprint into the world’s most vibrant biotechnology hub. The U.S. subsidiary will be headed by a former division manager at Novartis Vaccines, and will primarily focus on the business development of CureVac in the U.S. The U.S. presence will also help CureVac to attract a new round of financing to compete with the record $450M collected by Moderna last January.

CureVac’s technology utilizes natural, chemically unmodified mRNA as a data carrier to instruct the human body to produce its own proteins capable of fighting a wide range of diseases. To date, CureVac has validated its approach in numerous clinical trials, including an ongoing Phase IIb study in prostate cancer, which is to-date, the most advanced clinical trial involving a mRNA therapy. The German company also attracted high-standing investors including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which signed an agreement to develop an HIV vaccine using CureVac’s technology.

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Bill Gates CureVac

Bill & Melinda Gates

Just like the Gates’, the New York-based IAVI seems to have faith in CureVac’s solution to treat HIV. HIV’s envelope protein or “trimer” is the primary target for antibodies that can neutralize a wide range of the virus’ strains. Researchers of the IAVI have recently designed immunogens that successfully mimic this trimer. In this collaboration with Curevac, mRNA that encodes for the chosen trimer mimic will be constructed using CureVac’s RNActive technology and injected with the aim of stimulating the body to produce HIV trimer proteins and then related neutralizing antibodies. The partners will work with U.S., German and African health authorities with an eye to initiating trials in 2016.

“This collaboration could be a real game-changer,” said IAVI Chief Scientific Officer Wayne Koff.

Both announcements are again showing that the hype around Moderna Therapeutics may have been exaggerated as another, way more advanced, competitor is on stage.  In recent months, CureVac seems to have become more aggressive to prove Moderna won’t be the only player in the mRNA field. In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Molecular Therapy, the company demonstrated that its mRNAs “outperformed” Moderna’s  chemically-modified mRNAs. The battle has definitely started, who will make the next move?

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