Merck discontinues work on COVID-19 vaccines to focus on therapeutics

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

January 25, 2021 -- Merck will discontinue development of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates because they produced a lower immune response compared to natural infection or other COVID-19 vaccines.

Merck announced the decision following a review of the findings of a phase I clinical study on its COVID-19 vaccine candidates, V590 and V591. While the vaccines were generally well-tolerated, immune responses were lower than what researchers saw following infection or immunization with another vaccine, the company noted.

As a result of the discontinuation, Merck will record a charge in the fourth quarter of 2020 that will affect the company's results under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) results but not its non-GAAP results. Merck and collaborators still plan to submit its V590 and V591 phase I study results for publication in scientific journals.

Despite the change, the company plans to continue to advance clinical programs for its investigational medicines, MK-7110 and MK-4482, the later of which, known as molnupiravir, is being developed in conjunction with Ridgeback Bio. Merck also intends to continue evaluating measles virus vector and vesicular stomatitis virus vector-based platforms.

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