Merck Leaps Into the Covid-19 Find-a-Cure Arena

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Merck  (MRK) - Get Report is diving head-first into the global search to find both a vaccine and drug treatment for the coronavirus, putting both its expertise and deep cash-lined pockets to work in finding a Covid-19 cure and treatment.

In a series of press releases, the company announced on Tuesday that it is looking to develop two different vaccines to prevent the coronavirus as well as an oral medication to treat it – by buying Vienna-based vaccine maker Themis Bioscience for an undisclosed amount, and collaborating with research nonprofit IAVI to develop two separate vaccines.

It also announced a partnership with privately held Ridgeback Biotherapeutics to develop an experimental oral antiviral drug against Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to a statement from the company.

“With our singular legacy and expertise in vaccines and anti-infective medicines, we know Merck has a responsibility to engage in the scientific community’s efforts to find new medicines and vaccines to bring this pandemic to an end,” CEO Kenneth Frazier said in a statement.

“Covid-19 is an enormous scientific, medical, and global health challenge. Merck is collaborating with organizations around the globe to develop anti-infectives and vaccines that aim to alleviate suffering caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” Dr. Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a separate statement.

Merck last summer struck a deal with Themis to develop vaccine candidates against an undisclosed disease target. In exchange, Merck agreed to pay Themis as much as $200 million if the vaccines hit undisclosed sales and development targets.

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