Infectious Disease

Merck ends improvement of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates

January 25, 2021

1 min read

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Disclosure:
Krammer reports that the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine has filed patent applications for SARS-CoV-2 serological tests and SARS-CoV-2 vaccines based on the Newcastle disease virus, and that he previously worked with researchers on influenza virus -Vaccines study of another COVID-19 vaccine previously consulted Merck and Pfizer. His lab is working with Pfizer on animal models of SARS-CoV-2 and with a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania on mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-. 2. Li works at Merck.

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Merck announced it has discontinued development of two COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

In a phase 1 study, the discontinued candidates V590 and V591 were well tolerated, but showed “poorer” immune responses compared to natural infections or other COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

Covid vaccination

Merck has stopped developing its vaccine candidates V590 and V591 COVID-19.
Photo credit: Adobe Stock

V590 used the same recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus technology that forms the basis of Merck’s FDA-approved Ebola virus vaccine, and V591 used a measles virus vector platform.

“The fewer vaccines [that] The lower the global production capacity, the lower the global production capacity becomes. ” Florian Krammer, PhD, Healio said, a professor of vaccinology at the Icahn School of Medicine on Mount Sinai in New York. “I liked both approaches Merck took and it is regrettable that development will not continue.”

Florian Krammer

Merck said the results of the Phase 1 studies will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The company said it would continue to advance clinical programs for its investigational COVID-19 drugs MK-7110 and MK-4482. MK-7110 is a fusion protein that modulates the inflammatory response for SARS-CoV-2, and MK-4482, which is being developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is an antiviral agent that is currently being tested in phase 2 and 3.

“We are grateful to our staff who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the studies.” Dean Y. Li, MD, PhD, President of Merck Research Laboratories said in a press release. “We are determined to contribute to global efforts to relieve patients, health systems and communities from this pandemic.”

References:

Merck. IAVI and Merck are working together to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. https://www.merck.com/news/iavi-and-merck-collaborate-to-develop-vaccine-against-sars-cov-2/. Accessed January 25, 2021.

Merck. Results for the third quarter of 2020. https://www.merck.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2020/10/Sales-Earnings-3Q-2020-Infographic_10_26_MRK.pdf. Accessed January 25, 2021.

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C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH)

C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH

A year ago this month, the genetic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus circulating in Wuhan, China was identified. Since then, the focus has been on developing new vaccines and therapeutics that can end this generational pandemic. Early successes from Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen indicated, on the surface, that vaccine development was not as difficult as some had imagined. But nothing could be further from the truth. Vaccine development is extremely challenging. In addition to vaccine safety (which is of paramount importance), scientists and developers need to balance vaccine content, speed of manufacture and, of course, immune responses before further developing a vaccine candidate. The news that Merck’s SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates are being discontinued due to suboptimal immune responses is certainly disappointing. However, we expect that not all attempts to develop a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 will be successful. This reality is precisely why we have established clear pathways for FDA approval and approval. Every vaccine that enters the arms of children and adults in the United States has been rigorously studied in the laboratory, in animals, and then in carefully designed, step-by-step human clinical trials. Hence, while we are disappointed with the loss of a weapon in our COVID-19 arsenal, we are also encouraged that the rigorous system we have put in place for vaccine evaluation remains robust. We appreciate the efforts of Merck and others as they continue to focus on immunotherapeutics, antivirals, and additional vaccines.

C. Buddy Creech, MD, MPH

Director of the Vanderbilt Vaccine Research Program

Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Creech reports to serve as a consultant to Adaptive, Altimmune, Astellas, Horizon Pharma and Vir and to have received Merck grants for a study of a monoclonal antibody to Clostridioides difficile in children.

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