Merck axes two COVID-19 vaccine candidates; to focus instead on therapies

Merck has discontinued the development of its two COVID-19 vaccine candidates, called V590 and V591, and instead plans to focus on two therapeutic candidates, called MK4482 and MK7110, the Kenilworth-based drugmaker announced Monday.

Merck said in a news release that Phase 1 clinical studies of the vaccines found, “(B)oth V590 and V591 were generally well-tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines.”

Instead, the company will focus research and production strategy on its two investigational medicines, it said.

“We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates, and to the volunteers in the trials,” Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a prepared statement. “We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, health care systems and communities.”