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Trump tried to solicit US-exclusivity for coronavirus vaccine, report claims

Published on 16/03/20 at 01:03pm
Image Credit: Gage Skidmore, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_(8566730507)_(2).jpg

President Trump has attracted criticism from all sides over his response to the novel coronavirus outbreak; after repeatedly downplaying the potential impact of the virus before finally declaring a state of national emergency on 13 March, the US President came under fire just days later after it was confirmed he had attempted to solicit the pharmaceutical industry to develop a coronavirus vaccine exclusively for US patients.

German biopharma firm CureVac is one of a number of industry firms currently hard at work developing a vaccine for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Trump met with the CEO of the company, Daniel Menichella, along with a number of other industry leaders at a roundtable event in early March to discuss responses to the ongoing pandemic.

However, on 11 March, CureVac announced suddenly that Menichella would be replaced as CEO by Ingmar Hoerr – the man he had originally replaced in the role. Then it was reported by German daily newspaper Die Welt that the US President’s administration had put forward an offer of “large sums of money” to relocate CureVac’s R&D operations to the US in order to develop a vaccine “only for the United States”.

In reaction to this, according to the report, the German Government put forward counter-offers to the company in order to deter it from leaving the country, with the view that no one should have exclusive rights to any potential vaccine.

Reuters reported that a spokesperson from the German Health Ministry confirmed a quote in the report, and commented: “The German Government is very interested in ensuring that vaccines and active substances against the new coronavirus are also developed in Germany and Europe…In this regard, the government is in intensive exchange with the company CureVac.”

“This story is wildly overplayed,” commented a US official on the allegations, according to Reuters. “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.”

CureVac gave a veiled response to the story in a release on 15 March, in which it confirmed that “internal efforts are focused on the development of a coronavirus vaccine with the goal to reach, help and to protect people and patients worldwide.

“As a consequence, the company is in contact with especially CEPI and many other organisations and authorities worldwide, however abstains from commenting on speculations and rejects allegations about offers for acquisition of the company or its technology.”

Matt Fellows

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