Merck in talks with governments, other drugmakers to produce COVID-19 shots

FILE PHOTO: The Merck logo is seen at a gate to the Merck & Co campus in Linden, New Jersey, U.S., July 12, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – Merck & Co Inc said on Wednesday it was in talks with governments and companies to potentially help with manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines that have been already authorized.

“Beyond our own candidates, we are actively involved in discussions with governments, public health agencies, and other industry colleagues to identify the areas of pandemic response where we can play a role, including potential support for production of authorized vaccines,” a company spokesman said.

He, however, didn’t divulge any details of companies or public agencies the company was in touch with.

The drugmaker said it also planned to focus on the accelerated scale up of production of its investigational therapeutic candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110, which it now calls molnupiravir.

Merck had halted the development of its two COVID-19 vaccines in January after early trials showed both vaccines generated immune responses that were inferior to those seen in people who had recovered from COVID-19 as well as those reported for other COVID-19 vaccines.

It decided to focus on COVID-19 research and manufacturing efforts on therapeutics after its two vaccines failed.

The company said last week it expected early data from a trial of the experimental antiviral drug molnupiravir as early as the first quarter.

Merck has built out its portfolio of COVID-19 medicines through a series of deals in recent months, including the acquisition of Australian drugmaker Themis and a partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop molnupiravir.

Late in December, it said it would supply 60,000-100,000 doses of its experimental COVID-19 treatment to the U.S. government for up to about $356 million.

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