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A coronavirus vaccine maker is seeking an IPO. It’s bogged down in geopolitical tensions

June 16, 2020, 1:35 PM UTC

CureVac, a German drugmaker developing a vaccine against the coronavirus pandemic, is planning an IPO in New York to help fund its efforts.

The company is set to begin clinical trials for its mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine this month, a method that is also being tested by Moderna in the U.S. In theory, it’s a promising sign for the world that efforts for a cure are being ramped up.

But CureVac’s planned July IPO is shadowed by a heavy shroud of geopolitical tension—as reflected in its financing. On the same day news broke that CureVac plans to raise funding from the public on the Nasdaq, the German government announced that it would invest 300 million euros ($338.5 million) for a 23% stake in the private drugmaker, a move aimed at preventing a foreign player from taking control of the company.

“It is feared that in case of takeover and migration abroad, a vaccine against Covid-19 developed by CureVac in the future will not be made available to Germany and Europe,” a letter from the German finance ministry explaining the nation’s investment in CureVac, as seen by the Financial Times, read.

President Donald Trump reportedly sought to bring CureVac to the U.S. per German newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag—sparking fears that the search for a cure won’t be a collaborative international effort, but a more brutal battle pitting country against country.

Bill Gurley’s next act: The Benchmark investor behind winning bets on Uber and Grubhub will not be investing via its next fund. But don’t be surprised if you see Gurley continuing his work on direct listings. Frustrated by the first day pop on stocks undergoing initial public offerings, the investor has championed a new model of going public that does not raise new capital and lowers the overall payments to banks. It’s a conversation especially urgent now to Gurley given the enormous runup in the first round of companies that have gone public recently: ZoomInfo jumped 61%, Warner Music 31%, Shift4 Payments 46%, and Vroom 118%. “All told, the big four raised $2.94 billion, and yet the shares they sold were worth $4.63 billion at the end of close of their first day,” he said, per my colleague Shawn Tully’s recent conversation with the venture capitalist.

A twist to the story: Gurley noted IPOs tied to the most prestigious of investment banks popped the most egregiously on the first day of trading. But it’s also these same firms—Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley—that have led the most recent direct listings. Indeed, while direct listings pay out a lower fee to bankers on net, the fewer number of bankers in the direct listing process also means the banks involved individually have stood to gain more than a windfall via an IPO of a comparable size.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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- Epic Games, the Cary, N.C.-based gaming company behind Fortnite, is close to raising $750 million in funding valuing it at $17 billion, per Bloomberg. Investors include T. Rowe Price, Baillie Gifford, and KKR. Read more.

- Shattuck Labs, a Durham, N.C. and Austin-based biotech focused on cancer and autoimmune disease, raised $118 million in Series B funding. Redmile Group led, and was joined by investors including Janus Henderson Investors, Fidelity Management & Research Company, EcoR1 Capital, Hatteras Venture Partners, Avidity Partners, Partner Fund Management, Emerson Collective, and Piper Sandler & Co.

- Miaoshou Doctor, a Chinese online healthcare services provider, raised RMB600 million (US$84.6 million) in Series D funding. Investors include Qiming Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital China, INCE Capital, CITIC Securities, and Index Capital]. Read more.

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- Abacus Insights, a Boston-based data integration and interoperability platform for health plans, raised a $35 million in Series B funding. Blue Venture Fund led the round and was joined by investors including  CRV, .406 Ventures, Horizon Healthcare Services Inc., and Echo Health Ventures.

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-, a Jersey City-based maker of software for life science manufacturing, raised $7.5 million from Insight Partners.

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- Cake, a Los Angeles-based sexual wellness company, raised $1.4 million in seed funding. Investors included Brian Spaly (cofounder of Bonobos), Roth Martin (cofounder of Rothy’s), Brand Foundry Ventures, Finn Capital, and others.


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- Apollo Global Management cofounder Joshua Harris and Blackstone executive David Blitzer acquired a $140 million minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers, per Bloomberg. Read more.

- Lee Equity combined New York-based Integrated Medical Professionals  and Cincinnati-based The Urology Group to create a provider of urological and other specialty services.  Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Trinity Consultants, a portfolio company of Levine Leichtman Capital Partners, acquired Vision Environment Australia, a Queensland, Australia-based provider of water quality monitoring services. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- GreyLion Capital, focused on middle market investments, completed its spin out from Perella Weinberg Partners Capital. Greylion manages $1.4 billion across two funds.

- Kinaxis (TSX: KXS) agreed to acquire Rubikloud, a Canadian company automating supply chains. Rubikloud backers included Horizon Ventures and Intel Capital.

- SoftBank, confirmed that it is nearly a plan to sell part of its 25% stake in T-Mobile U.S. Read more.


- Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK), an Oklahoma City-based oil and gas firm, is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, per Reuters. Read more.


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- Genetron Holdings, a Beijing-based provider of diagnostic services for cancer patients, plans to raise $163 million (33% insider purchased) in an offering of 13 million ADSs priced between $11.50 to $13.50. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “GTH.” Read more.

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- Progenity, a San Diego, Calif.-based maker of tests for prenatal and disease screening, plans to raise $100 million (50% insider bought) in an offering of 6.7 million shares priced between $14 to $16. Athyrium Capital Management (47.6% pre-offering) backs the firm. It plans to list on the Nasdaq as “PROG.” 


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- Genstar Capital sold its remaining stake in Palomar Holdings (NASDAQ:PLMR), a specialty property insurer. Genstar invested $75 million in the firm in 2014. Financial terms weren't disclosed.


- Dundee Venture Capital named Ron Watson as a partner. Watson was previously a principal at Lewis & Clark Ventures.