CureVac and Novavax, two Covid-19 vaccine makers that appeared to be potential key players in allaying global supply constraints early in the pandemic, have appointed new chief executives.
In separate statements on Monday, the companies said their current chiefs, both with more than a decade at the helm of their respective employers, would be departing this year.
Novavax’s Stanley Erck will be replaced by John C Jacobs, most recently chief executive at Harmony Biosciences, this month; CureVac’s Franz-Werner Haas will be succeeded by Alexander Zehnder, a Sanofi veteran, in April.
Despite initial hopes, both drugmakers struggled to establish themselves on the Covid-19 vaccines market, now largely dominated by BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, which enjoyed significant first-mover advantage.
Novavax’s vaccine, which uses a traditional type of technology, has been widely approved and had been seen as a desirable alternative for vaccine sceptics who preferred not to receive messenger RNA, or mRNA, shots.
Yet its late arrival in an already saturated market led the drugmaker to slash revenue projections by half last year, sending its current share price down to about $11 from a high of $290. The shot had also been seen as a potentially significant contributor to the global vaccine access scheme Covax, after AstraZeneca temporarily paused deliveries, though demand for shots weakened as the pandemic progressed.
Its Covid shot is the company’s only approved product, and the process was marred by manufacturing delays. Novavax said on Monday it remained “well-positioned to execute on its strategy”, which includes the development of experimental flu vaccines and an Omicron-targeted Covid shot.
CureVac’s own mRNA Covid vaccine candidate, initially backed by Berlin through heavy investment and which attracted interest from former US president Donald Trump, floundered in trials in 2021, leading it to withdraw applications from regulatory agencies. It is working on second-generation mRNA shots for a broad array of diseases with GSK. Preliminary results had been promising, the company said on Monday, adding it has a “deep” pipeline in preparation.
Its share price reached all-time lows of just under $6 last year.