Merck's stock price rose 0.68% to $81.43 a share on news of the partnership between the pharmaceutical company and the Seattle-based Institute for Systems Biology, or ISB.
Under the collaboration agreement, Merck will team up with the nonprofit research institute to investigate the "molecular mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19," with the goal of zeroing in on "targets for medicines and vaccines," according to a press statement put out by the two organizations.
The federal Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, has agreed to help pay for the study.
"Understanding the molecular characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 infection, and of the immune response to the infection, is essential to the development of effective interventions," said Dr. Roger M. Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, in a press statement.
In particular, the Kenilworth, N.J.-based Merck is throwing its support behind a recently launched scientific trail by the ISB and the Swedish Medical Center, a major nonprofit hospital network in the Seattle area.
The ISB and the Swedish Medical Center are collecting nasal swabs and blood samples from 200 patients with SARS-CoV-2 that are at different points in the illness, from the newly infected to the seriously ill to those who are in recovery.
The researchers will use an array of methods to examine the samples with an eye to better understanding the impact of the deadly virus on patients and their internal organs.
Merck, in turn, will work with the researchers to help identify "targets for potential therapeutic intervention and vaccine development," the company and its new research partner noted in their press statement.