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The headquarters of German immunotherapy company BioNTech stands in Mainz, Germany, on April 22, 2020.

Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images

Singapore’s state investor Temasek and other investors are injecting $250 million into German biotech company BioNTech, which is developing an experimental vaccine against the coronavirus with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

The investment, which BioNTech said was via a private placement, reflects heightened investor interest in the race to develop an agent that will stop the pandemic and sent shares in biotech firms such as Moderna and Novavax soaring this year.

U.S.-listed shares in the German company jumped almost 15 per cent to their highest since March 19 on the news. They have surged more than 80 per cent so far this year against the Nasdaq biotech index’s gain of 12 per cent.

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BioNTech, which went public on Nasdaq in October last year, said the investors would purchase about $139 million in ordinary shares and $112 million in 4-year mandatory convertible notes.

It has said it expects first clinical data on its COVID-19 vaccine development programme known as BNT162 this month or in July.

The transaction would increase the number of BioNTech shares outstanding by 2.6 million from 226.8 million shares as per end of March, resulting in a combined stake of 1.1 per cent for the investor group once all notes are converted.

BioNTech, which is also working on personalised cancer vaccines, would not say how much of the total is attributed to Temasek. Temasek would also not comment.

The investment adds to Temasek’s healthcare assets that include Singapore biotech firm and COVID-19 treatment developer Tychan, British biotech firm Orchard Therapeutics and Irish drug delivery firm Aerogen.

Life sciences and agribusiness made up 7 per cent of Temasek’s holdings in the year to March 2019, up from 3 per cent in the year to 2015.

BioNTech and Pfizer launched testing programmes involving humans in April and May.

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Domestic rival vaccine developer CureVac, in which the German government is taking a 23 per cent stake, is planning an initial public offering in the United States next month. U.S. peer Translate Bio has attracted France’s Sanofi as an investor in a deal worth as much as $2 billion.

BioNTech, which awarded the rights to BNT162 in China to Shanghai Fosun under a March collaboration deal, is competing with CureVac as well as U.S. biotech firms Moderna and Translate Bio in the race to develop messenger-RNA vaccines.

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