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Merck and IAVI Collaborate to Develop Vaccine Against SARS-CoV-2; New Collaboration to Leverage Complementary Expertise and Capabilities with rVSV Technology to Advance Novel Vaccine Candidate

On May 26, 2020, Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and IAVI (https://www.iavi.org/), a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent, unmet global health challenges, announced a new collaboration to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 to be used for the prevention of COVID-19. This vaccine candidate will use the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology (image depicts VSV;see larger image below) that is the basis for Merck’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, ERVEBO® (Ebola Zaire Vaccine, Live), which was the first rVSV vaccine approved for use in humans. Merck has also signed an agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, to provide initial funding support for this effort. Under the agreement, IAVI and Merck will work together to advance the development and global clinical evaluation of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate designed and engineered by IAVI scientists. The vaccine candidate is in preclinical development, and clinical studies are planned to start later in 2020. Merck will lead regulatory filings globally. Both organizations will work together to develop the vaccine and make it accessible and affordable globally, if approved. “COVID-19 is an enormous scientific, medical, and global health challenge. Merck is collaborating with organizations around the globe to develop anti-infectives and vaccines that aim to alleviate suffering caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Roger M. Perlmutter, MD, PhD, President, Merck Research Laboratories. “Merck and IAVI are eager to combine our respective strengths to accelerate development of an rVSV vaccine candidate, with the goal of blunting the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“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. 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,” said Mark Feinberg, MD, PhD, IAVI President and CEO.

“A safe, effective vaccine will help prevent future outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2,” said BARDA Acting Director Gary Disbrow, PhD. “We are encouraged by the willingness of our private sector counterparts to come together as force multipliers to expedite vaccine development and to help save lives.”

Merck is a global leader in infectious diseases and vaccines, with a decades-long history of researching, developing, manufacturing, and distributing vaccines for children, adolescents, and adults. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Merck is focused on protecting the safety of its employees and their families, ensuring that our supply of medicines and vaccines reaches our patients and customers, contributing our scientific expertise to the development of antiviral and vaccine approaches, and supporting health care providers and our communities. To learn more, please visit http://www.merck.com/COVID-19.

IAVI’s rVSV vaccine preclinical development, including work on the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, is being done by scientists at IAVI’s Design and Development Laboratory (DDL) in Brooklyn, New York. This program is part of a long-standing effort to develop rVSV vaccines for HIV, as well as other emerging infectious diseases such as Lassa fever, Marburg, and Ebola Sudan disease, under the leadership of Swati Gupta, PhD, MPH, Head of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Scientific Strategy, IAVI.

rVSV VACCINE PLATFORM

The recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vaccine platform uses an attenuated strain of vesicular stomatitis virus, a common animal virus that has been modified to express proteins that stimulate an immune response. IAVI and Merck will leverage experience gained with this platform during the development of Merck’s rVSV-based vaccine for Ebola Zaire.

IAVI

IAVI is a nonprofit scientific research organization dedicated to addressing urgent, unmet global health challenges, including HIV and tuberculosis. Its mission is to translate scientific discoveries into affordable, globally accessible public health solutions. Read more at iavi.org. IAVI’s global headquarters is in New York. New York.

MERCK

For more than 125 years, Merck, known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of its mission to save and improve lives. The company demonstrates its commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as the company aspires to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information, visit www.merck.com. Merck’s global headquarters is in Kenilworth, New Jersey.

[Merck press release] [Merck] [IAVI]

IMAGE

Image of vesicular stomatitis virus.