Daily Management Review

Austrian Vaccine Maker To Be Acquired By Merck In Its Race To A Covid-19 Vaccine


Austrian Vaccine Maker To Be Acquired By Merck In Its Race To A Covid-19 Vaccine
Ever since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the race to find out a vaccine or a cure for the disease caused by the virus called Covid-19, Merck & Co Inc has more or less remained on the sidelines.
But bow the company is acquiring Austrian vaccine maker Themis Bioscience while also collaborating with the research non-profit IAVI for developing two separate vaccines for the disease.
The company also announced striking a partnership with privately held Ridgeback Biotherapeutics in which the companies would jointly work towards development of an experimental oral antiviral drug against Covid-19.
The terms and conditions of the acquisition of the privately held Themis were not disclosed by Merck.
Most of the large pharma companies are already in the race for finding a treatment or a vaccine for Covid-19. But Merck’s Chief Executive Ken Frazier said that the company had been waiting for opportunities with proven track records.
“We wanted to be in a position where we could choose things that have the right kind of characteristics to make a contribution for a virus that’s likely to be with us for some time,” he told the media in an interview.
Both vaccines under development are designed to be delivered in a single dose.
A modified measles virus that delivers bits of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body to prevent Covisd-19 is the basis of the vaccine being developed by Themis together with the Institut Pasteur in Paris. the project was also partly funded by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI)
Merck would be fast pacing the development process and expects vaccinating volunteers “within weeks”, the company said. 
The same technology as Merck’s Ebola vaccine ERVEBO is used by the IAVI vaccine. The ERVEBO has been recently approved by the European Commission and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Frazier said that human trials of that potential vaccine are expected to start sometime this year. Merck is developing this candidate jointly with IAVI. This project is also being backed by the U.S. Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).
Technologies that have resulted in licensed products, unlike some frontrunners, is being used for making both the vaccines.
More than 100 vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2 are in development, with about 12 in human testing designed mainly to evaluate safety.
The vaccines being developed by Merck’s vaccine, as well as those from Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, were were a month or two behind Moderna’s, said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, last week. “I think we’ll be in a position to participate,” Frazier said of Merck’s vaccines.
It is expected that Merck will be “an important player in the COVID-19 vaccines and treatments landscape”, said Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen said in a research note and described the approach to pursue multiple vaccine strategies as “a good means to diversify risk.”