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Merck Makes Big Moves in COVID-19 Vaccines, Treatments

The deals should accelerate vaccine development.


On May 26, Merck announced three new initiatives to combat COVID-19.  

First, Merck acquired Themis, a company that specializes in vaccines and immune-modulation therapies, which help your body fight cancer. The acquisition will accelerate the development of Themis’ COVID-19 vaccine candidate, which is in pre-clinical development. 

Merck also partnered with nonprofit research organization IAVI to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. IAVI and Merck will work to advance the development of a different vaccine candidate designed and engineered by IAVI scientists.  

Both the Themis and IAVI vaccine candidates have clinical studies planned to start in 2020. 

Finally, Merck partnered with biotech company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, which developed EIDD-2801, an oral antiviral candidate that could treat COVID-19 patients. 

Merck gains exclusive rights to the novel antiviral in exchange for an undisclosed upfront payment and a share of the net proceeds, if approved.  

Merck and Ridgeback say that any medicines developed for SARS-CoV-2 will be “accessible and affordable globally.”

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