2020 | HFSA

Update on Merck's New Scientific Efforts to Help Combat COVID-19

Industry News Industry

Update on Merck's New Scientific Efforts to Help Combat COVID-19 

We need new medicines and vaccines to bring this pandemic to an end. The global medical and scientific community, including the biopharmaceutical industry, is embracing this challenge and collaborating in unprecedented ways to accelerate our progress. 

We believe that Merck has a special responsibility to contribute to these efforts, given our legacy of leadership in combatting infectious diseases and our expertise in vaccines and antiviral medicines. Merck has been fully committed to developing an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic since it was first recognized. Our very skilled staff in the areas of antivirals and vaccines have identified potentially important therapeutic and vaccine candidates.

As part of our ongoing commitment to contribute our scientific expertise to the development of potential antiviral and vaccine approaches to combat SARS-CoV-2, on May 26, Merck announced three significant scientific initiatives: two commitments to develop potential vaccines, and a research collaboration to advance the development of a novel, investigational antiviral candidate. As part of our pledge to share information and updates about our progress with you, we are summarizing these programs here: 

IAVI and Merck Collaborate to Develop Investigational Vaccine Against SARS CoV 2

Merck and IAVI have entered into a new collaboration to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. This new collaboration combines the vaccine research and development capabilities of Merck and IAVI, and uses a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) platform. The vaccine candidate is currently in preclinical development, and clinical studies are planned to start this year. 

Merck to Acquire Themis

Merck’s planned acquisition of Themis builds upon our ongoing collaboration to develop vaccine candidates. When the acquisition closes, the parties will focus on working together to accelerate the development of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate. The planned acquisition combines the complementary strengths of Themis’s unique research expertise and Merck’s extensive infectious disease and vaccine capabilities. The vaccine candidate is currently in preclinical development, and clinical studies are planned to start this year. 

Merck and Ridgeback Bio Collaborate to Advance Development of Novel, Investigational Antiviral Candidate, EIDD-2801

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have entered into a collaboration agreement to develop EIDD-2801, an orally available antiviral candidate currently in early clinical development for the treatment of COVID-19. The therapeutic candidate is currently being evaluated in early clinical trials. 

These three efforts are the culmination of our focused effort to identify some of the most promising potential solutions to this global challenge and to put our resources to use in accelerating these efforts. We will ensure that all of these programs have the resources and attention that the COVID-19 pandemic demands. 

Merck intends to make any vaccine or medicine we develop for this pandemic broadly accessible and affordable globally, and we are working now to accomplish this goal as quickly as possible. As we have demonstrated throughout our history, when the world needs to come together to tackle new and daunting challenges, Merck can be counted on to do our part. 

We know that success will require global partnerships among countries, companies, and more. Though the challenge of this pandemic is immense, we know that science and collaboration will triumph, just as they have before. 

We will continue to provide updates on our website, www.merck.com/COVID-19, as we all, together, address this pandemic. 


Roy Baynes, MD, PhD
Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer
Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH 
Executive Vice President & Chief Patient Officer