Merck to acquire Themis Bioscience and join the race for COVID-19 treatments

Merck to acquire Themis Bioscience and join the race for COVID-19 treatments
  • Merck & Co Inc. to acquire Themis Bioscience and join the race for COVID-19 treatments.
  • The U.S drug manufacturer announces partnership with IAVI and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
  • Merck is not bound by government pact to prioritize domestic distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE: MRK) announced on Tuesday that it plans on buying Themis Bioscience. The Austrian vaccine manufacturer proposed a drug candidate earlier this year as the potential cure for COVID-19. The candidate vaccine is now approaching human trials.

Merck also said that it will be collaborating with IAVI. The non-profit vaccine researcher is working on developing 2 other vaccines for COVID-19.   

Merck’s commitment towards eradicating the novel respiratory disease was evident in its statement on Tuesday that also accentuated a partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The privately held company is manufacturing an oral antiviral experimental drug aimed at curing COVID-19. The news came only weeks after Merck released its Q1 earnings report.

Themis Bioscience vaccine is based on a modified measles virus

Merck, however, refrained from divulging the terms of Themis acquisition. Shares of the company were reported over 3% up in premarket trading on Tuesday. At £61 per share, the company is more than 15% down year to date in the stock market. Learn more about how do people make money on the stock market.

As per the sources, Themis is using a modified measles virus to develop a vaccine that can deliver chunks of SARS-CoV-2 into the human body to potentially prevent COVID-19. Themis is partially financed by CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) to develop the vaccine. Human trials of the candidate vaccine, Merck said, are expected to begin within weeks.

The IAVI vaccine, on the other hand, benefits from technology that Merck used to develop ERVEBO (Ebola vaccine) that received approval from the U.S FDA and European Commission earlier in 2020.

As per CEO Ken Frazier of Merck, human trials for the vaccine that it is manufacturing in collaboration with IAVI are likely to begin later this year. IAVI’s efforts to cure COVID-19 are financially backed by U.S. BARDA (Advanced Research and Development Authority).

Merck to start early production of IAVI vaccine in Pennsylvania

The vaccines under discussion will require a single dose for delivery. Merck has so far not identified the facilities where these drugs will be commercially manufactured after approval. For clinical trials, Themis is developing its vaccine doses in France while Merck intends to start early production of IAVI vaccine in Pennsylvania.  

Frazier also highlighted that the U.S government has not signed any pacts with the company that bounds it to prioritize the domestic distribution of the vaccine. Merck, he added, is committed to making vaccines globally accessible at an affordable price.  

Ridgeback’s drug that it calls EIDD-2801 has shown promising results in animal studies. The drug disabled multiple coronaviruses from reproducing while boasting high tolerance and safety. Efficacy trials, as per Frazier, will begin later this year.

By Wajeeh Khan
Mr. Khan specialises in Public Health by academia but is a trader by passion. Taking up two new hobbies of writing and trading in his teen years, he is now a professional trader and news writer with over 5 years of experience in various financial markets. Khan is passionate about bringing insightful articles to his readers and hopes to add value to their portfolios.
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