Merck 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 U.S. 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.
“Effective Ebola vaccines will be a critical component of comprehensive prevention and control measures for people at risk of Ebola virus infection and to stem future outbreaks globally,” said Dr. Julie Gerberding, president of Merck Vaccines. “Merck is committed to applying our vaccine expertise to address important global health needs and, through our collaboration with NewLink, we hope to advance the public health response to this urgent international health priority.”
According to Dr. Charles Link, chairman and chief executive officer of NewLink Genetics, “Merck’s vaccine development expertise, commercial leadership and history of successful strategic alliances make it an ideal partner to expedite the development of rVSV-EBOV and, if demonstrated to be efficacious and well-tolerated, to make it available to individuals and communities at risk of Ebola virus infection around the world.”
Under the terms of 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 is the result of years of hard work and innovation by Canadian scientists. We are pleased that this new alliance coupled with the clinical trials currently underway will further strengthen the possibility that the vaccine will make a difference in the global response to the Ebola outbreak,” said Canada’s Minister of Health, Rona Ambrose.