Merck’s Experimental Vaccine Marks Turning Point in Ebola Outbreak Prevention

January 29, 2019

Merck & Co.’s V920 (rVSV-ZEBOV) vaccine is expected to pave the way for the development of vaccines for emerging infectious disease with unpredictable disease incidence or geography, according to data and analytics company, GlobalData.

Following the Jan. 22, 2019 announcement by the Associated Press that Merck & Co. will ship another 120,000 doses of its experimental Ebola vaccine to the Congo by the end of February 2019, Paul Jeng, pharma analyst at GlobalData, a data and analytics company, offers insight into the impact of Merck’s rVSV-ZEBOV (V920) vaccine.

‘‘Merck’s V920 has now been administered to over 63,000 people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and as of January 2019, the WHO predicts that vaccine supplies will be sufficient to control the current Ebola outbreak,” said Jeng, in a company press release. “Although it is still experimental, V920 has been found to be highly immunogenic in humans following single-dose injection and effective at curbing the spread of the Ebola virus.”

Jeng also stated that the success of V920 indicates that Merck has established a viable blueprint for development of vaccines for emerging infectious disease with unpredictable disease incidence or geography. GlobalData reports that in 2015, V920 was tested in Guinea using a ‘ring vaccination’ strategy for high-risk individual clusters, providing the vaccine to close contacts of Ebola-infected individuals, as well as contacts of those contacts. According to Jeng, this method increases clinical trial study power while creating a buffer of immunity around each case and can potentially be applied to other emerging infections that spread through close individual contact.

V920 was initially engineered by scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory and subsequently licensed to a subsidiary of NewLink Genetics Corporation. In late 2014, when the peak of the Ebola outbreak in western Africa was at its worst, Merck & Co. licensed V920 from NewLink Genetics, with the goal of accelerating the development, licensure, and availability of the candidate vaccine, according to Merck.

“Several other Ebola vaccines are now in Phase III development, including GlaxoSmithKline’s recombinant vector vaccine, GSK-3390107A, and Johnson & Johnson’s recombinant monovalent vaccine,” Jeng continues. “Although most of these late-stage vaccines have demonstrated favorable safety and immune response profiles in clinical testing, GlobalData’s primary and secondary research indicate that V920 will likely be the first to be approved by the FDA in 2019 and establish a market-leading position in Ebola prophylaxis.”

Source: GlobalData