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Merck’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate to Enter Phase 1 Clinical Trial in Q3

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Aug 2020
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Image: Merck’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate to Enter Phase 1 Clinical Trial in Q3 (Photo courtesy of Merck)
Image: Merck’s First COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate to Enter Phase 1 Clinical Trial in Q3 (Photo courtesy of Merck)
Merck (Kenilworth, NJ, USA) has announced that it is accelerating its COVID-19 vaccine development efforts and plans to begin clinical studies of its first vaccine candidate in the third quarter of this year.

Merck has acquired Themis to accelerate the development of V591, a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate that uses a measles virus vector platform based on a vector originally developed by scientists at the Institut Pasteur, a world-leading European vaccine research institute, and licensed exclusively to Themis. V591 is currently in preclinical development and Merck plans to begin clinical studies in the third quarter. Additionally, Merck, in collaboration with IAVI, is developing V590, a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate that uses a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) platform, the same platform that was used for the company’s approved Ebola Zaire virus vaccine. V590 is currently in preclinical development and Merck plans to begin clinical studies this year.

Among its antiviral research programs, Merck, in collaboration with Ridgeback Bio, is developing MK-4482 (formerly known as EIDD-2801), an orally available antiviral candidate for the treatment of COVID-19. In preclinical studies, MK-4482 has demonstrated antiviral properties against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as the coronaviruses responsible for MERS and SARS. Merck is currently evaluating the candidate in Phase 2 clinical trials. Merck is also collaborating with the Institute for Systems Biology to investigate and define the molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 and to identify targets for medicines and vaccines, as well as participating in the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-led Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) consortium.

“We are conscious of our abiding responsibility to help advance vaccine and antiviral efforts as part of the global response to SARS-CoV-2 and to ensure broad, equitable and affordable global access to any medicines and vaccines we bring forward,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer, Merck. “This pandemic underscores the essential role of Merck and the biopharmaceutical industry in addressing the world’s greatest health challenges and underscores the importance of a health care ecosystem that incentivizes risk-taking and innovation. Ultimately, scientific and medical knowledge will help overcome this ongoing global pandemic – and that is why we must continue to trust and invest in breakthrough science.”

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