Kenilworth-based Merck has entered into an agreement with the United States government to support the development, manufacture and initial distribution of an investigational biological therapeutic (CD24Fc, to be named MK-7110) upon approval or Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Merck acquired MK-7110 through the acquisition of OncoImmune, a privately held, clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company.
“Building upon the promising clinical findings to date for MK-7110, Merck is pleased to be collaborating with the U.S. Government to advance the manufacture and distribution of this candidate for patients with serious COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories.
Under the agreement, Merck will receive up to approximately $356 million for manufacturing and supply of approximately 60,000-100,000 doses of MK-7110 to the U.S. Government through June 30, 2021 to meet the government’s Operation Warp Speed goals. This approach is intended to expedite delivery of MK-7110 to the American people as quickly as possible, following potential EUA or FDA approval. Merck is also investing to expand its manufacturing capacity to increase supply of MK-7110.
In September 2020, OncoImmune reported topline findings from an interim efficacy analysis of a Phase 3 study evaluating MK-7110 for the treatment of patients with severe and critical COVID-19. An interim analysis of data from 203 participants (75% of the planned enrollment) indicated that hospitalized patients with COVID-19 treated with a single dose of MK-7110 showed a 60% higher probability of improvement in clinical status compared to placebo, as defined by the protocol. The risk of death or respiratory failure was reduced by more than 50%. The study is ongoing.
The SAC-COVID Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT04317040) is a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of CD24Fc/MK-7110 in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen support, including those requiring supplemental oxygen, high flow oxygen, and mechanical ventilation. Participants were randomly assigned into two arms receiving either standard of care plus a single dose of MK-7110 via an intravenous infusion on Day 1 or standard of care plus placebo on Day 1. The multi-center trial was initiated in April 2020 and had enrolled 243 patients when the trial was closed due to full enrollment in September 2020.
OWS is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, engaging with private firms and other federal agencies, and coordinating among existing HHS-wide efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
MK-7110 is a potentially first-in-class recombinant fusion protein that targets the innate immune system. In addition to the Phase 3 clinical trial for COVID-19 patients, MK-7110 has been studied for safety in healthy volunteers and in Phase 2 clinical trials for the prevention of graft versus host disease (GVHD) following hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in patients with leukemia. A pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial (NCT04095858) for prophylaxis of GVHD has been initiated nationwide.
Merck has been committed to developing an effective response to COVID-19 since the early stage of the pandemic and is exploring multiple paths to advance the understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition to the development of MK-7110, in collaboration with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics Merck is evaluating molnupiravir, an investigational orally available anti-viral agent being evaluated in two Phase 2/3 trials for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 in both the outpatient and hospital settings. The company is also conducting clinical trials to evaluate two SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccine candidates: V590, being developed through a collaboration with IAVI, which utilizes a recombinant vesicular stomatitis vector, and V591 which uses a measles virus vector-based platform.
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