Merck & Co., NewLink Genetics Partner for Ebola VaccineBy
Merck & Co. and NewLink Genetics Corporation have entered into an exclusive worldwide license agreement to research, develop, manufacture, and distribute NewLink's investigational rVSV-EBOV (Ebola) vaccine candidate.
The vaccine candidate, originally developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is currently being evaluated in Phase I clinical trials. Pending the results of ongoing Phase I trials, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced plans to initiate, in early 2015, a large randomized, controlled Phase III study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the rVSV-EBOV vaccine and another investigational Ebola vaccine co-developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and GlaxoSmithKline.
Under the agreement, Merck will be granted the exclusive rights to the rVSV-EBOV vaccine candidate as well as any follow-on products. The vaccine candidate is under an exclusive licensing arrangement with a wholly owned subsidiary of NewLink Genetics. Under these license arrangements, the PHAC retains non-commercial rights pertaining to the vaccine candidate.
Phase I clinical trials of the rVSV-EBOV vaccine are now underway at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the NIAID at the NIH. Additional Phase I studies are underway or planned to begin in the near future at clinical research centers in Switzerland, Germany, Kenya, and Gabon in a World Health Organization-coordinated effort, and in Canada by the Canadian Immunization Research Network.
This vaccine platform is based on an attenuated strain of vesicular stomatitis virus that has been modified to express an Ebola virus protein that plays an essential role in establishing virus infection. The rVSV-EBOV vaccine was created by scientists at the Public Health Agency of Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory. A significant portion of the funding for the further development of the vaccine came from the CBRN Research and Technology Initiative, a federal program led by Defense Research and Development Canada. In 2010, the PHAC signed a licensing arrangement with BioProtection Systems (BPS), a wholly owned subsidiary of NewLink Genetics, as the sole licensee for these vaccines and the underlying technology. BPS has worked with the PHAC to produce clinical trial materials and to move this vaccine candidate into Phase I studies.
Source: Merck & Co.