Merck Enters into Research Collaboration with the Institute for Systems Biology for COVID-19 Medicines and Vaccines

April 28, 2020

Merck will provide funding and will work with researchers at the Institute for Systems Biology to identify targets for therapeutic intervention and vaccine development.

Merck, known as MSD outside the US and Canada, announced on April 27, 2020 that it is entering into a research collaboration with the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), a Seattle-based nonprofit organization, to explore and define the molecular mechanisms of the SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 and find targets for medicines and vaccines.

Merck has also entered into an agreement with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services, for BARDA to provide funding support for this research. Merck will provide funding and will work with researchers at ISB to identify targets for therapeutic intervention and vaccine development, a Merck press release said. The study will begin with samples from 200 patients with the potential to expand to 300.

According to the press release, scientists from ISB, health workers from the Swedish Medical Center, and various research organizations and biomedical companies will analyze blood samples and nasal swabs from COVID-19 patients using proteomic, metabolomic, transcriptomics, and genetic techniques to estimate the impact of infection on certain organs, and to classify potential biomarkers to examine the risk of disease.

“We launched this trial with the urgent need to improve our understanding of COVID-19,” said Dr. Jim Heath, president, ISB, in the press release. “By applying the full power of our systems biology capabilities, we hope to gain important insights into the molecular basis for the dramatically contrasting outcomes observed for patients infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

“Understanding the molecular characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and of the immune response to this virus, is essential to the development of effective interventions,” said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president, Merck Research Laboratories, in the press release. “We are eager to advance this work with ISB, and to share our findings with the broader scientific community. Interdicting the COVID-19 pandemic presents a daunting global health challenge, demanding unprecedented collaboration across the international scientific and medical communities to which we are proud to contribute.”

Source: Merck