Elon Musk visits CureVac in Germany to further Tesla’s role in vaccine development

(Teslarati) – Elon Musk’s trip to Germany appears to have started on a high note, as the CEO experienced nothing short of a rockstar welcome during his visit to the headquarters of CureVac in Tübingen on Tuesday evening.

Local reports indicate that the internal visit was aimed at discussing cooperation between the biotech company and Tesla subsidiary Grohmann Automation for the production of RNA mini-factories that could be used for the development of vaccines.

In a statement to SWR News, a CureVac spokesperson noted that the talks between Musk and the biotech company were held without any media present, as per the Tesla CEO’s request. CureVac is currently running a large-scale effort to develop a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus for the market in about two years. By then, the biotech company expects to have the capability to deliver billions of doses of vaccines for those in need.

Musk’s visit was highly-anticipated by Tesla fans in the area. Since Tuesday morning, a crowd of onlookers and photographers were already present at the CureVac site in Tübingen. Fans ended up waiting for hours for the CEO, at times even weathering some rain. Musk finally arrived in a black Model X at about 4:27 local time, followed by his entourage riding in another Tesla. Fortunately, at about 8:18 pm local time, Musk emerged from the facility, strolling between the CureVac headquarters and the Tübingen observatory.

Musk’s rockstar welcome was evident during his brief time with his fans. Surrounded by young Tesla enthusiasts, some of whom were holding signs indicating their intention to eventually work for the CEO, Musk seemingly interacted with some of his fans in a candid manner. Images from the event showed Musk, donning a bandanna in place of a face mask, walking with a group of about 30 people. Til Schwarze, one of those who waited for the CEO, later noted on Twitter that the long wait for Musk was well worth it.

Musk’s visit to Germany has several goals. In a post on Twitter, the CEO noted that conversations with Harvard epidemiology have indicated that the high-speed RNA printer technology has the potential to be helpful for the development of vaccines. Tesla and CureVac, incidentally enough, are currently developing and building RNA microfactories, which could greatly help in the ongoing fight against the pandemic. Back in July, Musk noted that with synthetic RNA and DNA, the solution to many diseases essentially becomes a “software problem.”

“In principle, I think synthetic RNA (and DNA) has amazing potential. This basically makes the solution to many diseases a software problem. Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others,” Musk wrote.

While Tesla and CureVac’s collaboration has been placed on the spotlight due to the pandemic, a joint patent application from 2018 reveals that the two companies have already been working on RNA-related innovations long before the initial COVID-19 outbreak. Descriptively titled “Bioreactor for RNA in vitro Transcription,” the patent outlined how Tesla’s mastery in automation could help expedite the manufacturing of RNA.

Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk are no strangers to critics, and in the past, YouTube personality Steven Crowder of the “Change My Mind” series fame has counted himself among them. However, a search for the best Autopilot functionality to help his wife’s recent health issues led the conservative comedian to reconsider the merits of the all-electric carmaker’s products.

“It’s not even close… It’s pretty damn cool. It is so fun to drive,” he expressed matter-of-factly on Tuesday’s Louder with Crowder episode. “That wasn’t the case back when I had a friend who had a Prius… [The Tesla] is more fun than any car I’ve ever driven, and the Autopilot is incredible. It does make sense to get for my wife.”

After test driving a Tesla, Crowder said he bought one “immediately.”

Politics is Crowder’s primary source of joke material, specifically approaching humor from the American right-wing side of the aisle. His original critical stance on Tesla seemed to come primarily from an objection to government subsidies the automaker had received. Unlike other commentators with this position, though, Crowder has taken into account a few notable facts that Tesla fans often find themselves explaining in defense of the most common anti-Tesla narratives.

First, while Tesla did benefit from taxpayer-funded subsidies, Crowder argued that it’s important to compare the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer to the primary market it operates in. Specifically, the loans and subsidies Tesla utilized were and are available to other carmakers, including huge legacy auto companies.

Where Musk’s company paid back its $465 million loan nearly ten years early (and with interest), the “big three” (GM, Chrysler, and Ford) received $80 billion bailouts in 2008, of which billions have not been returned. Also, the loan Tesla received was to build and grow a company, whereas the legacy auto loans were to prop up failing businesses that were “too big to fail” and secure their benefit and pension plans.

Credit: Steven Crowder/YouTube
Second, Crowder was particularly pointed about the $7,500 subsidies Tesla’s customers received when purchasing their vehicles up until a phase-out was triggered in 2018 after hitting 200,000 cars sold. The California carmaker’s “big three” competition also had/have that credit for their EVs despite decades’ worth of resources and supply chains available.

As Crowder summarized generally, the subsidy situation makes the case that Tesla’s success is due to its product superiority on a more even playing field rather than some government-backed superficial advantage. This, of course, is something Musk has referred to on numerous occasions.

More briefly, Crowder credits Tesla as having created new jobs and employing Americans as a “made in the USA” carmaker. He also applauds their use of innovation and its rewards via capitalism to achieve its goals in the clean energy market over other government-driven solutions. Common ground is rare these days, but the spirit of Crowder’s series “Change My Mind” can count at least this one instance where opposing sides have found compromise.

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