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Merck Discontinues Developing COVID-19 Treatment Candidate

April 15, 2021 • 8:03 am CDT
(Precision Vaccinations News)

New Jersey-based Merck announced on April 15, 2021, the discontinuation of the development of MK-7110 for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19.

Merck had acquired MK-7110 (CD24Fc) in December 2020 through its acquisition of OncoImmune, a biopharmaceutical company.

As previously reported, Merck subsequently received feedback from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that additional data beyond the study conducted by OncoImmune would be needed to support its use. Based on the additional research that would be required – new clinical trials and research related to manufacturing at scale – MK-7110 would not be expected to become available until the first half of 2022.

Given this timeline and these technical, clinical, and regulatory uncertainties, Merck confirmed it is focusing its pandemic efforts on advancing the experimental oral antiviral molnupiravir in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP and on producing Johnson & Johnson’s experimental Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

“Merck’s commitment from the outset of the pandemic has been to deploy our expertise and capabilities where they can have the most impact,” said Dr. Roy Baynes, SVP and head of global clinical development, CMO, Merck Research Laboratories, in a related press release.

Furthermore, the companies provided an update on April 15, 2021, regarding the clinical development program for molnupiravir.

“Data from the dose-finding portion of various studies are consistent with the mechanism of action and provide meaningful evidence for the antiviral potential of the 800 mg dose,” commented Dr. Roy Baynes, SVP and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories, in a related press release. “Based on the findings of this study, we are advancing a Phase 3 trial program in non-hospitalized patients that strategically leverage our large network of clinical sites to enroll appropriate patients globally.”

Molnupiravir was originally developed at Emory University by its drug innovation company, Drug Innovation Ventures at Emory. Ridgeback Biotherapeutics later acquired it. It is an orally active prodrug of the synthetic nucleoside derivative N4-hydroxycytidine and exerts its antiviral action by introducing copying errors during viral RNA replication.

Kenilworth, N.J-based Merck, known as MSD outside of the USA and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives.

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