[Ip-health] Politico: EU weighs into German-American spat over vaccine company

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Mar 18 04:29:01 PDT 2020


https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-weighs-into-german-american-spat-over-vaccine-company/?

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CureVac, a company based in the German town of Tübingen, hit the headlines
over the weekend when Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that
U.S. President Donald Trump was attempting to snatch up exclusive rights to
the business's coronavirus vaccine, developed in cooperation with a
publicly funded German institute.

While the report has pitched U.S. and German officials into a war of words,
the European Commission said Monday it would offer the company a guaranteed
loan worth €80 million "to scale up development and production of a vaccine
against the coronavirus in Europe."

--


EU weighs into German-American spat over vaccine company

Brussels offers a guaranteed loan of €80 million to the company at the
heart of the dispute.

By HANS VON DER BURCHARD AND JAKOB HANKE VELA 3/16/20, 10:29 PM CET Updated
3/17/20, 4:31 AM CET

Brussels has entered into an ill-tempered diplomatic skirmish between
Germany and the U.S. over a company that is developing a vaccine against
coronavirus.

CureVac, a company based in the German town of Tübingen, hit the headlines
over the weekend when Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported that
U.S. President Donald Trump was attempting to snatch up exclusive rights to
the business's coronavirus vaccine, developed in cooperation with a
publicly funded German institute.

While the report has pitched U.S. and German officials into a war of words,
the European Commission said Monday it would offer the company a guaranteed
loan worth €80 million "to scale up development and production of a vaccine
against the coronavirus in Europe."

After days of being identified as the bad guys in the EU coronavirus saga —
for banning the export of medical equipment within Europe — German
politicians are now queuing up for an opportunity to portray themselves as
defenders of the public in Europe and beyond.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said “Germany is not for sale,” while
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Sunday insisted to public broadcaster ZDF
that CureVac would develop any potential coronavirus vaccine “for the whole
world” and “not for individual countries.” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told
the Funke media group on Monday that “we cannot allow others to seek
exclusive results."

U.S. Ambassador to Berlin Richard Grenell, however, described the story as
plain “wrong” and another U.S. official slammed reports about Trump's grab
for vaccine exclusivity as “wildly overplayed.”

“The U.S. government has spoken with many (more than 25) companies that
claim they can help with a vaccine,” the official said. “Most of these
companies already received seed funding from U.S. investors. 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.”

Dietmar Hopp, the owner of the company, sought to put an end to the public
fight on Monday saying the business would stay in Germany, but confirmed
that Trump had sought to secure exclusivity rights. "It is not possible
that a German company develops the vaccine and that it is used exclusively
in the U.S. That was not an option for me," he told Germany's Sport1 when
asked why he had refused an offer by Trump worth €1 billion.

Hopp, an investor whose fund holds over 80 percent of shares in CureVac,
said in a statement on Sunday that “if we can soon develop an effective
vaccine against coronavirus, this should be able to reach, protect and help
people not only regionally but also worldwide in solidarity.”

"I would be glad if this could be achieved from Germany through my
long-term investment,” he said.

But the company put out a contradictory statement on Twitter Monday
lunchtime: "CureVac has not received from the US government or related
entities an offer before, during and since the Task Force meeting in the
White House on March 2. CureVac rejects all allegations from press."

According to the Welt report, the German government is considering offering
payments to keep CureVac in Germany. A health ministry spokeswoman said:
"The German government is very interested in the development of vaccines
and active substances against the novel coronavirus in Germany and Europe,”
and added: “In this regard, the government is in intensive exchange with
the company CureVac.”

While Germany's politicians are happy to attack Trump's "America First"
politics, German politicians have had to weather heavy criticism in the
past few days for adopting a "Germany First" approach in the coronavirus
crisis by banning the export of protective equipment such as face masks to
partner countries in the EU.

Reacting to that criticism, Berlin backtracked last week by easing its
export ban and allowing the export of protective gear as long as its own
needs are met.

This was still not enough for the European Commission, which threatened
Germany with infringement proceedings. Only afterward did Germany agree —
again — to change its export ban, although the specific changes have not
yet been set out.

Matthew Karnitschnig and Jillian Deutsch contributed reporting


-- 
Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org


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