A German biotech company tweeted Monday it did not receive an offer from President Trump for rights to a coronavirus vaccine it is working on.
The statement was aimed at putting an end to controversy surrounding a reported attempt by Trump to gain exclusive access to a potential coronavirus vaccine, or the German research group doing work on it. On Monday the White House also dismissed the charge.
The controversy broke Sunday when the German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag published a story saying Trump offered a large sum of money to the company at a meeting on March 2 in exchange for obtaining the vaccine when and if it were developed.
The headline read, “Donald Trump grabs for German Vaccine Company."
Citing government sources, the newspaper reported “there is talk of a billion dollars in Berlin.”
The report also said Trump wanted CureVac to move its research group to the United States from Tübingen, the southern German town where the company is based. The company has offices in Boston but its main research is not carried out there.
German Health Ministry officials confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that the article was correct but that Germany was working to ensure any vaccines would be available to all.
“Capitalism has limits,” tweeted Karl Lauterbach, a member of the German Bundestag and a professor of health economics and epidemiology.
By Monday, the White House had dismissed the charge, CureVac said it had no offer from the United States and the German government was meeting about the issue. White House aides told the Washington Post Monday they were aware of no offer from Trump to CureVac.
CureVac's majority shareholder said Monday “it was not an option” for the company to develop the vaccine exclusively for the United States.
“It goes without saying that it cannot be that a German company develops the vaccine and that it is used exclusively in the USA,” Dietmar Hopp told the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.
CureVac issued a news release on March 3 announcing that its CEO, Daniel Menichella, was invited to the White House to discuss vaccine development with Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, together with other companies working on vaccines.
Menichella left the company abruptly five days ago. A CureVac news release gave no reason for his departure.
CureVac’s focus is on messenger RNA-based vaccines and cancer therapies. RNA is what genes use to tell cells which proteins to assemble. Such a vaccine could carry a non-infective blueprint of the coronavirus protein, triggering the production of antibodies that would give the person getting vaccinated immunity from the disease.