US pharmaceutical giant Merck has a piece of bad news with them. It is also known in India as MSD. It on January 25 said it is discontinuing the development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates, V590 and V591. It also plans to focus its research strategy and production capabilities on advancing therapeutic drug candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110.
This decision came into the picture after Merck reviewed the findings from Phase 1 clinical studies for the vaccines.
Statements By Merck:
“In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well-tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other COVID-19 vaccines,” Merck said.
Merck’s V590 includes the rVSV viral vector and a measles virus vector is used by the V591 vaccine candidate to transmit the antibodies to the body in order to stimulate an immune reaction.
Merck said it will continue to progress clinical programs and scale-up the development of two investigational drugs, MK-7110 (anticorporeal drug) and MK-4482 (molnupiravir); molnupiravir has been produced in partnership with Ridgeback Bio.
“We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials,” said Dr. Dean Y. Li, President, Merck Research Laboratories.
“We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, healthcare systems, and communities.”
The business will report a charge in the final quarter of 2020 because of the discontinuation, Merck said.
Merck and its partners expect to submit for publication in a peer-reviewed journal the findings of the Phase 1 studies for V590 and V591. Merck will seek to perform COVID-19 research in parallel to promoting the production and manufacturing of MK-7110 and MK-4482.
Merck said it will also seek to assess the potential of vector-based systems for the measles-virus vector and vesicular stomatitis virus and explore wider pandemic-response technologies.
Merck will be the second drug manufacturer to drop the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Previously, the University of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine was discontinued after participants in the trial reported false-positive HIV testing results.
In December of last year, the French drug manufacturer Sanofi and the British drug manufacturer GSK, who are jointly producing the COVID-19 vaccine, announced that their recombinant protein vaccine had a weak response in elderly people, possibly due to inadequate antibody concentrations.