Vials for a Mile: Merck Donates Vaccine Doses for Ebolavirus Outbreak

Responding to the health and humanitarian crisis of the “Sudan ebolavirus” (a specific species of ebolavirus) outbreak in Uganda, multinational pharma titan Merck (referred to as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada) is developing and subsequently plans to donate vials of an investigational candidate vaccine to nonprofit scientific research organization IAVI, which will use the vials for its own ongoing vaccine development program. The vials in questions are to be produced from existing investigation bulk drug substance from previous Merck efforts, and will also go toward aiding in the WHO’s Uganda outbreak campaign.

A former collaboration agreement between Merck and IAVI has yet to materialize, but both companies are looking to accelerate the overall effort in the interest of saving lives. “We are proud to work together with IAVI in support of the World Health Organization’s response to address the Sudan Ebola outbreak in Uganda,” said Merck Research Laboratories Executive Director of Global Clinical Development Vaccines Beth-Ann Coller. “We are moving with urgency to prepare these vials and donate them to IAVI as quickly as possible to help support the efforts of the WHO and the people of Uganda as they grapple with this outbreak.”

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The vaccine contained in Merck’s donated vials uses a replication-competent, live, and attenuated recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) vaccine construct akin to what is present in ERVEBO, the company’s FDA-approved, single-dose Zaire ebolavirus vaccine for use in individuals aged 18 years and older. Roughly 50,000 doses are expected to pass from Merck’s repository into IAVI’s hands by the end of the year. All further uses of the doses in this outbreak response will have to be approved by applicable health authorities, however.