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CureVac's Vaccine Might Protect Against the South African Variant

In this video from Motley Fool Live, recorded on March 29, Fool.com Contributors Brian Orelli and Keith Speights discuss CureVac's (NASDAQ: CVAC) data showing the biotech's vaccine can protect against coronavirus variants. While a good first step, the data was produced in mice, which limits any conclusions that are generated. Nevertheless, CureVac has a plan to test the hypothesis in humans as well.

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Brian Orelli: CureVac reported data that shows that its mRNA based vaccine, CVnCoV, protects against the South African variant. Of course, the caveat here is that the study was in mice. In humans, the vaccine is in a phase 2b/3 study. What do you think of the mouse data, and can you talk about what they're doing with clinical trials to test the vaccine against the variants?

Keith Speights: I think CureVac's pre-clinical results in mice look very promising. They were not ordinary mice by the way. [laughs] These were transgenic mice. These mice had a human gene, the human ACE2 receptor. That's the receptor through which SARS-CoV-2 enters human cells. These were special mice, not just the kind you're going to catch outside.

The CureVac vaccine produced robust antibody responses in the mice. It blocked viral replication of the South African coronavirus variant in the lower respiratory tract and the brains. It reduced viral replication in the upper respiratory tract. Those were all good results. Now, it's important to note that positive results from preclinical testing, even in testing that involve transgenic mice, don't always translate to equally good results with testing in humans. It's still really early to know if things are going to pan out as well as this preclinical study did.

What CureVac is doing is they're talking to the European Medicines Agency now about including an amendment to its phase 2b/3 study to be able to analyze the efficacy of its vaccine in some of these variants. I would think that they're going to get an OK for that. If this mice study is a good predictor of how the vaccine will work in humans, I think CureVac might have one of the vaccines that's more effective at treating these variants, or immunizing against these variants.

Orelli: Of course, Novavax (NASDAQ: NVAX) did that too. I think maybe Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) did it too, but they did the analysis post-hoc. Instead of being hypothesis driven, they did the after the fact, so that's less valid to the regulators. By setting it up, saying we're going to do this analysis before they see the data that will allow them to make that claim that these other companies that have done it post-hoc can't actually do.

Speights: Right. We don't talk about CureVac a lot, but the company does have a supply deal in place with Europe, I believe. I can't remember the exact number of doses, but they have a pretty significant supply deal already lined up. If their vaccine turns out to be successful, it's a company that could make a good bit of money pretty soon.

Brian Orelli, PhD owns shares of Novavax. Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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