Merck (NYSE:MRK) announced today that it is discontinuing the development of its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, with the Kenilworth, N.J.-based pharma company focusing on two therapeutic candidates instead.
Merck officials say they made the decision after Phase 1 clinical studies that showed the V590 and V591 vaccine candidates produced an immune response that was inferior to a natural infection, as well as what has been reported for other COVID-19 vaccines. The company plans to record a charge in its Q4 2020 results related to the discontinuation.
“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 of Merck Research Laboratories.
“We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, health care systems and communities,” Li said in a news release.
Merck will continue research related to , as well as development and production involving to two therapeutic candidates:
- MK-7110 (formerly CD24Fc) is an investigational recombinant fusion protein that modulates the inflammatory response to SARS-CoV-2, principally by targeting a novel immune pathway checkpoint. Interim Phase 3 study results showed MK-7110 more than halving the risk of death or respiratory failure in patients hospitalized with moderate to severe COVID-19. Merck expects full study results in Q1 2021. The U.S. government has agreed to pay Merck roughly $356 million for 60,000–100,000 doses of MK-7110 through June 30, 2021.
- Molnupiravir (MK-4482) is an oral novel investigational antiviral agent that Merck is developing in collaboration with Ridgeback Bio. Molnupiravir is currently being evaluated in Phase 2/3 clinical trials in both the hospital and outpatient settings, with the study expected to be primarily completed in 2021. The drug has shown promise in ferrets.