4% Stake

Bill Gates Buys Into Vaccine Maker

Bill Gates Source AP Photos
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Gates Foundation investment in Curevac could produce vaccines that no longer require refrigeration, a bonus in the developing world.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested $52 million in German biotech firm Curevac.
    • Curevac hopes the deal will help it can accelerate the creation of pioneering, life-saving RNA vaccines.
    • It is the Gates Foundation’s largest-ever single, direct investment in a private business.
  • Audio

    Audio

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A small German biotech company specializing in next-generation vaccine technology believes a $52 million (€46 million) investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will help deliver its life-saving products to market more quickly.

Curevac, based in Tübingen, southwest Germany, said the investment, equivalent to a 4 percent stake in the firm, would allow it to deliver a vaccine to combat rotavirus, a frequent cause of diarrhea in developing countries, by as early as 2020.

The company specializes in so-called RNA vaccines, which its founders developed. RNA, ribonucleic acid, is a class of protein that cells use to communicate with each other. Researchers believe RNA can be an effective way to immunize people against influenza, rotavirus and possibly HIV.

The principle advantage of RNA vaccines as opposed to conventional vaccines is that they do not have to be stored cold, making them ideal for use in developing nations.

The Gates Foundation, the world’s wealthiest charitable organization with assets of $43.5 billion, has a stated aim of providing cheap, effective vaccines to the developing world. Bill Gates is a co-founder of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, according to Forbes, which lists his personal assets at $79.2 billion. The Curevac deal is the foundation’s largest-ever direct investment in a private company.

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