Merck has signed a collaboration with non-profit IAVI to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19. Initial funding for this project will be supplied by the US Government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

This vaccine will leverage the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology, which Merck uses for its Ebola Zaire vaccine, Ervebo. The candidate is already in pre-clinical studies. The rVSV vaccine approach is central to the work of IAVI, which is working on this type of product for HIV, Lassa fever and Ebola Sudan.

Merck research laboratories president Dr Roger Perlmutter said: “Covid-19 is an enormous scientific, medical, and global health challenge.

“Merck and IAVI are eager to combine our respective strengths to accelerate development of an rVSV vaccine candidate, with the goal of blunting the trajectory of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

IAVI president and CEO Dr Mark Feinberg added: “We believe an rVSV-based vaccine strategy represents a promising approach to combating the novel coronavirus pandemic and look forward to implementing an accelerated development program, together with Merck, to evaluate the potential of our vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2.”

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