Merck is collaborating with IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organization, to develop a vaccine against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) for the prevention of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The vaccine candidate will be developed using recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology, the same platform used for the development of Merck’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, Ervebo. To stimulate an immune response, researchers have replaced the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV) gene coding for the VSV surface protein with a gene coding for the SARS-CoV-2 surface protein. 

The vaccine candidate is currently in preclinical development with clinical studies expected to begin later this year.

In addition, Merck is collaborating with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop an oral antiviral candidate, EIDD-2801, for the treatment of COVID-19. EIDD-2801 is a ribonucleoside analog that inhibits the replication of multiple RNA viruses including SARS-CoV-2. 

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“Clinical evaluation of EIDD-2801 in COVID-19 patients is just beginning, now that phase 1 studies have demonstrated that the compound is well tolerated,” said Dr Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories. “Since preclinical studies demonstrate that EIDD-2801 has potent antiviral properties against multiple coronavirus strains including SARS-CoV-2, we are eager to advance the next phase of clinical studies as rapidly and responsibly as possible.”

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