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Iran Press TV

Trump luring German firm into developing COVID-19 vaccine only for Americans: Report

Iran Press TV

Sunday, 15 March 2020 4:48 PM

US President Donald Trump is trying to lure a German company, which is developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus, into moving its research to the US to develop such desperately-needed vaccine exclusively for the Americans, a report says, a move that has prompted Berlin to make counter-offers to the firm to entice it to stay.

Citing unnamed sources, the prominent German newspaper Die Welt reported in its Sunday edition, Welt am Sonntag, that the US president was offering large sums of money to CureVac, a Tubingen-based biopharmaceutical company, to secure exclusive rights to its work in developing an anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

Trump was sparing no effort to get a vaccine for the US, "but only for the US," the newspaper added, citing an anonymous German government source as saying.

CureVac, currently under high pressure from Washington, is working with the federally-owned Paul Ehrlich Institute on the production of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

The report added that Berlin has tried to persuade the company, by offering it financial incentives, to stay in Germany and to resist Trump's temptation.

The move by the White House has also prompted German politicians to insist no country should have a monopoly on any future vaccine.

The report cited a German health ministry as saying that Berlin was in "intensive" dialogue with CureVac in this regard.

"The German government is very interested in having the development of vaccines and treatments against the novel coronavirus undertaken in Germany and Europe," the spokesman said.

Separately, Reuters quoted a spokeswoman for the German health ministry as saying, "We confirm the report in the Welt am Sonntag."

Neither Washington nor CureVac has so far commented on the report.

Furthermore, Reuters reported that the German company, in 2015 and 2018, had secured financial support for vaccine development projects from its investor the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working on shots to prevent malaria and influenza.

Reuters also said that Florian von der Muelbe, CureVac's chief production officer and co-founder, told the new agency last week that the company had started with a multitude of coronavirus vaccine candidates and was now selecting the two best to go into clinical trials.

The privately-held CureVac said on its official website that Daniel Menichella, the head of the company, had meetings with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and senior representatives of pharmaceutical and biotech companies early this month to discuss a vaccine.

Separately, Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economics and epidemiology and a senior legislator with the Social Democrats, tweeted in reaction to the Welt am Sonntag report, saying, "The exclusive sale of a possible vaccine to the USA must be prevented by all means. Capitalism has limits."

The COVID-19 disease, caused by the new coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, is currently affecting 156 countries and territories across the globe. It has so far infected more than 162,000 people and killed more than 6,000 others.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

According to official reports, the new coronavirus has infected more than 5,400 people and killed 11 others in Germany so far, while in the US it has infected more than 3,000 individuals and claimed the lives of 62 others.

German govt. says has strong interest in producing vaccines on its soil

Later on Sunday, the German government stressed its keen interest to develop a coronavirus vaccine on its soil.

"The German government has a strong interest in producing vaccines in Germany and Europe," a spokesperson for the economy ministry told media group Funke, AFP reported.

The ministry also emphasized that the government has the power to scrutinize foreign takeovers of German companies, "especially when it comes to national or European security."

AFP also quoted an unnamed US official as saying that the German newspaper's report was "wildly overplayed."

"The US government has spoken with many (more than 25) companies that claim they can help with a vaccine. Most of these companies already received seed funding from US investors," the official said, denying that the US was seeking to keep any potential vaccine for itself.

CureVac investors also told German media that they would not sell the vaccine to a single state.

"We want to develop a vaccine for the whole world," said Christof Hettich, CEO of CureVac's primary investor dievini Hopp Biotech Holding.

CureVac, founded in 2000, is based in the German state of Thuringia, and has other sites in Frankfurt and Boston.

The firm markets itself as specializing in "development of treatments against cancer, antibody-based therapies, treatment of rare illnesses and prophylactic vaccines."

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