Merck pulls the plug on COVID vaccines

Jan. 25, 2021

Merck & Co. announced it is discontinuing development of its two experimental COVID-19 vaccines, V590 and V591, after disappointing early trial data.

This decision follows Merck’s review of findings from phase 1 clinical studies for the vaccines. In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for competing COVID-19 vaccines.

The experimental vaccines were using a more traditional approach of focusing on shots based on weakened viruses. V590 borrowed technology from Merck’s Ebola inoculation and V591 was based on a measles vaccine used in Europe.

The drugmaker says it plans to focus its research strategy and production capabilities on advancing its two therapeutic candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110. Interim results from a phase 3 study of MK-7110 showed a greater than 50 percent reduction in the risk of death or respiratory failure in patients hospitalized with moderate to severe COVID-19. Last month, the company signed a $356 million deal with the U.S. government to supply up to 100,000 doses of MK-7110.

Read the press release