The German biotechnology firm CureVac, whose US headquarters is in Boston, raised $213 million in its initial public offering Friday, then saw its stock skyrocket amid high hopes for its experimental vaccine for COVID-19.
CureVac’s share price closed at $55.90, up nearly 250 percent, after the 20-year-old biotech debuted on the Nasdaq exchange.
“This is kind of beyond expectations,” Pierre Kemula, CureVac’s chief financial officer, said of the stock market debut, believed to be the first by a firm that has developed a promising coronavirus vaccine.
The drug company, one of several with a coronavirus vaccine candidate that relies on the promising pharmaceutical area known as messenger RNA, announced before the market opened that it had sold more than 13 million shares at $16 each. That was the top end of CureVac’s projected price range for its IPO and gave it a market value of about $2.8 billion.
CureVac is based in Tübingen, Germany, and has roughly 500 employees, including 15 at its US hub at 250 Summer St., in Boston. It has no approved products.
In June, it got permission from regulators in Germany and Belgium to begin clinical trials of its experimental vaccine in those two countries. The firm recruited about 200 healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 60 and began testing the vaccine that month in an early-stage clinical trial, said Kemula. The study is intended to evaluate the safety of the shot and whether it stimulates the production of antibodies. Results of the Phase 1 trial are expected by October, Kemula said.
CureVac’s vaccine uses messenger RNA, genetic material that scientists believe can teach a person’s immune system to defend against the coronavirus. That’s the same approach of Moderna, the Cambridge biotech that last month began the first late-stage trial in the US of a COVID-19 vaccine. That vaccine is being tested on 30,000 volunteers across the United States, including participants at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
CureVac became embroiled in a political controversy in March after a German newspaper reported that the Trump administration was trying to obtain the company’s vaccine exclusively for the United States through a large donation. German officials said at the time that the government was entering talks with CureVac to repel such a move, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The company, however, denied at the time that the Trump administration had made the approach, and US officials disputed the German newspaper report.
In June, the German government said it had purchased a stake in the privately held biotech in an attempt to block a foreign takeover.
Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at email@example.com.