" as="other"> Merck joins Covid-19 pack with vaccine and antiviral deals - MyBioGate Global COVID-19 Resources Platform

Published: May 26, 2020 From Evaluate

Lisa Urquhart

Merck might have got off to a slow start, but now hopes to make up for lost time with multiple projects.

Perhaps the biggest question about Merck & Co entering the Covid-19 vaccine race is what took it so long. Today the US pharma giant announced a raft of coronavirus work including two vaccines and one antiviral, signalling its intentions about tackling the virus.

Merck is going to have to hit the ground running and keep up the pace if it is to make headway in this crowded field. There are already 15 or so companies in the clinic with a vaccine, and the likes of Moderna and Astrazeneca have already announced human trials, with Astra hoping to start phase III by July.

However, the US pharma giant does have an advantage over most of its rivals: manufacturing capacity. The group is the second-biggest global vaccine maker after Glaxosmithkline, so if its efforts in the clinic are successful it will be well equipped to undertake the rapid scale-up and distribution that potentially vaccinating billions of people will require.

The speed of current vaccine development also means that, while Merck is unlikely to be the first to the finish, by taking a more measured approach it might achieve a more efficacious vaccine, which will be important if Covid-19 does become a seasonal virus. The group also appears keen to come up with a single-dose vaccine, again a potential advantage if millions or billions of people need to be protected.

GENEVA, April 13 (Xinhua) — There is no evidence that the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine, which is primarily used against tuberculosis, protects people against infection with the novel coronavirus, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday.

The WHO therefore didn’t recommend BCG vaccination for the prevention of COVID-19 in the absence of evidence, according to its daily situation report.

“There is experimental evidence from both animal and human studies that the BCG vaccine has non-specific effects on the immune system. These effects have not been well characterized and their clinical relevance remains unknown,” WHO stated.

Two clinical trials addressing the question are underway, and WHO will evaluate the evidence when it is available, it noted.

BCG vaccination prevents severe forms of tuberculosis in children and diversion of local supplies may result in an increase of disease and deaths from the tuberculosis, it warned.

Top vaccine makers efforts in Covid-19
CompanyCovid Vaccine projectsStatus
GlaxosmithklineGlaxo/Cepi collaboration projectPreclinical
 Glaxo/Clover biopharmaceuticals collaboration projectPreclinical
 Glaxo/Sanofi Covid-19 adjuvanted vaccine projectPreclinical
MerckMerck/Iavi collaborationPreclinical
 Themis/Institut Pasteur/CEPI collaboration projectPreclinical
PfizerPfizer/Biontech BNT162 mRNA vaccinePhase II
SanofiSanofi/Translate Bio mRNA vaccine collaborationPreclinical
 Sanofi/Glaxo Covid-19 adjuvanted vaccine projectPreclinical
 Sanofi/Barda recombinant D3252 projectPreclinical
CSLCSL/Cepi/University of Queensland projectPreclinical

To cover all bases Merck also announced a collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop an oral antiviral, EIDD-2801. This is the most advanced of all of Merck’s new Covid-19 assets. Phase I trials started in early April and the results, which could come this summer, are sure to be closely watched, as the project has shown some effect in animal models for Sars and Mers.

But, while Merck is finally moving rapidly, its progress will surely be compared against that of other big pharma groups. Astrazenca has teamed up with Oxford University and expects results of a study in 1,000 volunteers for its AZD1222 vaccine soon, while Glaxo and Sanofi hope to start human trials by the second half of the year, with the aim of a working product by the end of 2021.

Investors in Merck have already been warned that the group stands to lose $1.7bn in pharma revenues this year from the Covid-19 pandemic. The hope now is that the group’s traditionally cautious approach will yield better result than its rivals, and eventually see the tortoise beat the hares.

Link : https://www.evaluate.com/vantage/articles/news/deals/merck-joins-covid-19-pack-vaccine-and-antiviral-deals