New Jersey-based Merck said Saturday that the experimental antiviral drug molnupiravir it has been developing with Ridgeback Bio showed a quick reduction of the infectious virus in a study among participants with early COVID-19.
“We continue to make progress in our Phase 2/3 clinical programs evaluating molnupiravir in both outpatient and hospital settings,” said Roy Baynes, head of global clinical development and chief medical officer at Merck Research Laboratories.
Ridgeback Biotherapeutics is a biotechnology company focused on emerging infectious diseases. It currently markets Ebanga for the treatment of Ebola
Molnupiravir, which Merck officials said has been shown to be effective in several strains of SARS-CoV-2, was invented at Drug Innovations at Emory, a not-for-profit biotechnology company wholly owned by Emory University.
The company said of 202 treated participants, no “safety signals” were identified in the ongoing clinical trial and of the 4 serious adverse events reported, none were considered to be study drug related.
“The secondary objective findings in this study, of a quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early COVID-19 treated with molnupiravir, are promising,” said William Fischer, associate professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, in a statement from the two companies.
Last month, Merck—which is headquartered in Kenilworth, said it was giving up on two potential COVID vaccines of its own following poor results in early-stage studies.
But earlier this week, said Merck announced it would help produce rival Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved coronavirus vaccine in an effort to expand supply more quickly.
“We are steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic as part of the remarkable efforts of the entire medical and scientific community,” said Mike Nally, executive vice president, Human Health at Merck.
The announcement came as the White House sought to speed the production of the single-dose vaccine, after J&J faced unexpected production issues with its vaccine and produced only 3.9 million doses ahead of its receiving emergency use authorization last week.
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide Merck with funding of up to $268.8 million to adapt and make available several existing manufacturing facilities for the production of COVID-19 vaccines and medicines, the company said.