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April 16, 2021

Coronavirus company news summary – Merck to halt development of MK-7110 for Covid-19 – Gavi leads calls for more COVAX funding to boost vaccine supply to lower-income countries

By Chris Lo

Merck will stop the development of  its drug candidate MK-7110, formerly known as CD24Fc, to treat hospitalised Covid-19 patients. Merck acquired MK-7110 in December 2020 through the acquisition of biopharmaceutical company OncoImmune. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had earlier directed Merck to provide additional data to support emergency use authorisation (EUA) for the drug. Based on additional findings, MK-7110 would not be made available before the first half of 2022. The company said it would focus its pandemic efforts on advancing molnupiravir and supporting production of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.

According to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance’s CEO Seth Berkley, the global supply of Covid-19 vaccines is incredibly tight and the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) dose-sharing facility is unlikely to provide much more supply in 2021 than already reserved. Referring to a funding target for June, Berkley stated that an additional $2bn was required from donors, including $150m from the private sector and another $1bn from countries supported by multilateral development banks. The funds would be used to “lock in” up to 1.8 billion vaccine doses for 92 lower-income countries through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment.

Biotechnology firm INOVIO has reported the results of a study focused on human immune responses produced by its Covid-19 vaccine candidate INO-4800 against variants of concern. The study demonstrated that INO-4800 produced a robust T cell response against all spike protein variants examined, which the company believes is critical for providing protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants, in addition to providing similar levels of neutralising activity against the UK and Brazilian variants as those seen in the original strain.

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