Merck (NYSE:MRK) and IAVI announced today that they are collaborating to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 for preventing COVID-19.
The vaccine candidate is slated to use the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology used as the basis for Merck’s Ervebo Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, which was the first such vaccine to be approved for use in humans, according to a news release. Merck also signed an agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, to provide funding for the collaboration.
“COVID-19 is an enormous scientific, medical, and global health challenge,” Merck Research Laboratories president Dr. Roger Perlmutter said in the release. “Merck is collaborating with organizations around the globe to develop anti-infectives and vaccines that aim to alleviate the suffering caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“Merck and IAVI are eager to combine our respective strengths to accelerate the development of an rVSV vaccine candidate, with the goal of blunting the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
IAVI and Merck will now come together to further the development and evaluation of the vaccine candidate designed and engineered by IAVI scientists, which is currently in preclinical development with clinical study plans set for later this year. Merck is responsible for leading regulatory filings around the world, while both companies intend to work together to develop the vaccine and make it accessible and affordable if it is approved.
Development work on the vaccine is being done at IAVI’s design and development laboratory in Brooklyn, New York, as part of an effort to develop rVSV vaccines for HIV, Lassa fever, Marburg, and Ebola Sudan disease.
“We believe an rVSV-based vaccine strategy represents a promising approach to combating the novel coronavirus pandemic and look forward to implementing an accelerated development program, together with Merck, to evaluate the potential of our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2,” IAVI President & CEO Dr. Mark Feinberg said. “The collaboration between Merck and IAVI represents an innovative partnership model and approach to utilize our joint capabilities in complementary and synergistic ways to address this difficult global health challenge.”
Lawyers at White & Case LLP, led by partner Andres Liivak and associate Elle Davis, advised IAVI in the process of developing the collaboration with Merck on this vaccine candidate.