GSK and CureVac renegotiated an existing collaboration agreement into a new licensing deal on Wednesday morning. 

In accordance with the updated terms of the agreement, GSK gains full rights to develop, manufacture and commercialize mRNA influenza vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines and combinations of the two shots. 

In return, CureVac will receive $429 million upfront and up to $1.13 billion contingent upon development, regulatory and sales payments, and royalties. This deal, worth potentially more than $1.5 billion, extends CureVac’s runway into 2028. 

Going forward, CureVac will still retain rights to additional undisclosed, pre-clinically validated infectious disease targets from the original collaboration. The German drugmaker can also work independently on mRNA vaccines in any other infectious disease or indication. 

The new licensing agreement will replace all previous financial arrangements between the two companies. 

Following the announcement of the deal, CureVac said it would lay off 30% of its staff as part of a strategic restructuring to focus its resources on mRNA projects in oncology and other areas.

CureVac CEO Dr. Alexander Zehnder said in a statement that the GSK renegotiation provides substantial financing for the organization and allows it to streamline operations and focus on technology innovation, research and development. 

“While the approximately 30% workforce reduction is a difficult decision on a personal level, I am convinced that this is a necessary step to ensure the long-term success of CureVac,” Zehnder stated. “As we implement this change, we are grateful to all our employees for their dedication, passion and commitment in advancing mRNA-based therapies to patients.”

CureVac noted in a press release that it expects to report data from a Phase 1 study of its cancer vaccine candidate CVGBM in glioblastoma later this year. Additionally, the company expects to have two clinical candidates for cancer vaccines next year, with the plan to initiate two additional Phase 1 studies by the end of 2026.

The drugmaker said it would provide additional financial and strategic updates during its Q3 earnings call in November.

The GSK renegotiation represents a major development in the working relationship between the two pharma giants, which announced an initial collaboration in 2020.

As part of that original agreement, the drugmakers worked together to develop mRNA vaccines. As a result GSK and CureVac currently have vaccine candidates in varying stages of development for the seasonal flu, the bird flu and COVID-19.

“We are excited about our flu/COVID-19 programmes and the opportunity to develop best-in-class mRNA vaccines to change the standard of care,” Tony Wood, chief scientific officer at GSK, said in a statement. “With this new agreement, we will apply GSK’s capabilities, partnerships and intellectual property to CureVac’s technology, to deliver these promising vaccines at pace.”

The agreement remains subject to antitrust and regulatory approvals as well as customary closing conditions. 

While Wall Street remained indifferent to the news as it relates to GSK, CureVac experienced a slight jump in its stock price during the late Wednesday morning trading session. 

This announcement also notably comes after Moderna announced that it received $176 million from BARDA to support their development of their own combination of a flu and COVID-19 vaccine to combat bird flu.