Merck enters the vaccine fray with key acquisition

May 26, 2020

Merck & Co. has jumped into the intensifying race for a coronavirus vaccine by buying Austrian drugmaker Themis Bioscience. The companies will be collaborating with IAVI, a nonprofit research organization, on two separate coronavirus vaccine candidates.

Themis developed one of the candidates alongside Institut Pasteur in Paris with financial backing from CEPI using technology based on a modified measles virus. Merck says that candidate will be ready for human trials in the next few weeks.

The other candidate was developed by IAVI with the same platform tech as Merck’s Ebola vaccine, which has been approved by the FDA and EMA. Trials are expected to begin with that candidate later this year. 

Merck said that it has not determined where the vaccines would be commercially produced, but plans to make an at-risk investment in scaling up capacity. 

There are about 115 coronavirus vaccines in development and several have already started or been approved for phase 2 trials including candidates from Moderna, University of Oxford and China’s CanSino.

Read the Reuters report.