Merck & Co and the International AIDS Vaccine Action Organization (IAVI) recently announced that the two sides have reached a new cooperation to develop a vaccine product against the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) to prevent COVID-19.
This candidate vaccine will use recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology, which is the basis of the Merck East Ebola Zaire virus vaccine Ervebo (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, V920). Ervebo received the world's first batch in the European Union in November 2019 for the active immunization of people aged 18 and above to prevent Ebola virus disease (EVD) caused by Ebola Zaire. This approval makes Ervebo the world’s first Ebola vaccine to receive regulatory approval, marking a historic milestone. Currently, Ervebo has been approved in many countries in the United States and Africa.
Ervebo is the first rVSV vaccine approved for use in humans. According to the cooperation agreement, Merck and IAVI will work together to promote the development and global clinical evaluation of SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates designed and engineered by IAVI scientists. This candidate vaccine is in preclinical development and clinical research is scheduled to start later in 2020. Merck will lead the submission of regulatory documents worldwide. If approved, the two organizations will work together to develop the vaccine and make it globally accessible and affordable.
IAVI's preclinical development of rVSV vaccine, including research on the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate, is being completed by scientists at the IAVI Design and Development Laboratory (DDL) in Brooklyn, New York. The project is part of a long-term effort to develop rVSV vaccines for HIV and other emerging infectious diseases (such as Lassa fever, Marburg and Ebola Sudan disease) under the leadership of Dr. Swati Gupta, director of emerging infectious diseases and scientific strategy at IAVI .
The recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vaccine platform uses attenuated strains of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), a common animal virus that has been modified to express proteins that stimulate immune responses. IAVI and Merck will use the experience gained from the platform in the development of rVSV vaccine against Ebola Zaire virus.
Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, President of Merck Research Labs said: "COVID-19 is a huge scientific, medical and global health challenge. Merck is working with organizations around the world to develop anti-infective drugs and vaccines to mitigate SARS-CoV-2 The pain caused by the infection. Both Merck and IAVI are eager to combine their strengths to accelerate the development of a rVSV vaccine candidate vaccine in order to slow down the prevalence of COVID-19."
Dr. Mark Feinberg, President and CEO of IAVI, said: "We believe that the rVSV-based vaccine strategy is a promising method to help combat the new coronavirus pandemic. We look forward to implementing an accelerated development plan with Merck To evaluate the potential of our SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate. The collaboration between Merck and IAVI represents an innovative partnership model and method that leverages our joint capabilities in a complementary and synergistic manner to address this challenge Global health challenges."