As of this morning – Wednesday May 27 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 265,227 with 37,048 deaths.

MSD has unveiled its response to the novel coronavirus pandemic which includes two agreements to develop potential vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, and a research collaboration to further development of a novel antiviral candidate.

The company has linked with nonprofit scientific research organisation IAVI to develop an investigational vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 to be used for the prevention of COVID-19.

This will use the recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology that is the basis for MSD’s Ebola Zaire virus vaccine, Ervebo (Ebola Zaire Vaccine, Live), which was the first rVSV vaccine approved for use in humans.

MSD also announced plans to acquire privately-held Themis, allowing the drug giant to access a broad pipeline of vaccine candidates – including one that targets SARS-CoV-2 for the prevention of COVID-19 - and immune-modulatory therapies.

Finally, MSD announced a collaboration agreement with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop EIDD-2801, an orally available antiviral candidate currently in early clinical development for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Under terms of the deal, MSD, through a subsidiary, will gain exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialise EIDD-2801 and related molecules, with responsibility for their clinical development, regulatory filings and manufacture.

In return, Ridgeback Bio will receive an undisclosed upfront payment, specified milestones and a share of the net proceeds of EIDD-2801 and related molecules, if approved.

“COVID-19 is a global challenge and requires global solutions. MSD intends to make any vaccine or medicine we develop for this pandemic broadly accessible and affordable globally, and we are working now to accomplish this goal as quickly as possible,” noted Kenneth Frazier, chairman and chief executive.

“Though the challenge of this pandemic is immense, we know that science and collaboration will triumph, just as they have before. While we cannot predict when this battle will be won, we are confident that science is on our side, that collaboration is already well underway, and that together, we will prevail.”