Merck Announced Its Coronavirus Treatment Efforts
With 2 vaccine candidates slated to start human testing this year, the pharma giant Merck has officially joined the sprint for a coronavirus cure.
Merck stands apart from the dozens of biopharmaceutical companies that have started this research as the company has the experience to impact a pandemic and vast resources. Merck, the $190 billion pharma giant has one of the largest vaccine businesses with more than 70,000 employees.
On Tuesday, Merck unveiled its research ambitions after it had vaguely hinted at coronavirus research efforts for several weeks. Three programs were highlighted by the company — one experimental antiviral pill and two vaccine efforts.
In a statement, Kenneth Frazier, Merck CEO said, “We will make sure that all the three programs will have the focus, attention, and resources they need and will meet all the demands of COVID-19 pandemic.”
Merck is also collaborating with the nonprofit IAVI. To advance this vaccine candidate, funding is also provided by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
Vesicular stomatitis virus, a type of animal virus is used in this candidate. To trigger an immune response, this virus has been manipulated to express certain proteins, by the Merck’s scientists. Merck could produce the first US-approved Ebola vaccine through this platform, as this platform worked for Ebola.
Merck also said it is buying a private biotech company Themis. This company has specialized in using the measles virus to deliver vaccines and it works on vaccines. To provide human cells with an antigen, the virus acts as the delivery system. From a leading French nonprofit research group, the Pasteur Institute, Themis had first licensed the technology in 2010.
To craft a coronavirus vaccine candidate, Themis has been working together with the University of Pittsburgh and the Pasteur Institute. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations has provided funding to this group.
Additionally, for EIDD-2081, a possible antiviral COVID-19 treatment, Merck signed a deal with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The experimental drug was seen to be well tolerated in humans in early clinical studies. The details regarding the financials of any of these deals are not revealed.
Merck Announced Its Coronavirus Treatment