January 25, 2021

Merck and IAVI Discontinue Development of COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate V590

Research will continue on COVID-19 vaccine platform.

NEW YORK — JANUARY 25, 2021 — IAVI, a nonprofit scientific research organization, and Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, announced they are discontinuing development of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate V590. This decision follows review of findings from a Phase I clinical study. In this study, intramuscular administration of V590 was generally well tolerated, but the immune response was inferior to those seen following natural infection and to those reported for other SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

IAVI and Merck discontinue development of COVID-19 vaccine candidate V590Image credit: Charlotte Raymond Photography

The groups plan to submit the results of the Phase I study for V590 for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and they intend to work together to continue research into vaccine candidates to prevent COVID-19.

Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., IAVI president and CEO, said, “These results are not the ones we hoped for, but we conduct studies in order to learn the answer to a question. In this case, the answer is clear: more work is needed. We are gratified that the safety profile of V590 was favorable, and we thank our colleagues at Merck, our other partners, our staff, and the clinical trial participants who have made tremendous contributions to this important scientific endeavor.”

IAVI and Merck will continue to evaluate other vaccine candidates based on the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vector-based platform to determine if changes in route of administration, to the viral vector, and/or to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein lead to improved immune responses. An award to IAVI from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) continues to support nonclinical research into rVSV-vectored SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates at IAVI’s Vaccine Design and Development Lab in Brooklyn, as does a commitment to contribute to IAVI’s COVID-19 vaccine development program from the Government of Japan in partnership with the World Bank.

The rVSV platform is used in Merck’s highly efficacious licensed Ebola vaccine and underpins IAVI’s emerging infectious diseases vaccine program. IAVI’s rVSV-vectored Lassa fever vaccine candidate, which generated a strong immune response in animal studies, will move into the clinic in 2021.

“Recent COVID-19 vaccine shortages in high-income countries and the unfortunate lack of availability of COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries demonstrate that we need more vaccines. We fully intend to make a contribution to ensure that all people, no matter where they live, are able to access COVID-19 vaccines so that individuals, families, and communities everywhere are protected,” said Feinberg.