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Tue Mar 2, 2021, 09:02 AM

Biden to announce 'historic partnership': Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine [View all]

Last edited Tue Mar 2, 2021, 09:33 AM - Edit history (1)

Source: Washington Post

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. will help make Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine — an unusual pact between fierce competitors that could sharply boost the supply of the newly authorized vaccine, according to senior administration officials. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter that has not been announced, said they began scouring the country for additional manufacturing capacity after they realized in the first days of the administration that Johnson & Johnson had fallen behind in vaccine production.

They soon sought to broker a deal with Merck, one of the world’s largest vaccine makers, which had tried and failed to develop its own coronavirus vaccine. Under the arrangement, Merck will dedicate two facilities in the United States to Johnson & Johnson’s shots. One will provide “fill-finish” services, the last stage of the production process during which the vaccine substance is placed in vials and packaged for distribution. The other will make the vaccine itself, and has the potential to vastly increase supply, perhaps even doubling what Johnson & Johnson could make on its own, the officials said.

“It’s a historic partnership,” said one of the officials, adding that the companies “recognize this is a wartime effort.” He praised their sense of “corporate citizenship.” The officials declined to provide details about how Merck’s involvement will affect the projected supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the timetable for distributing it. It could easily take two months to get the “fill-finish” plant ready and a few more months to equip the other facility to make the vaccine, according to a person familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue.

The Biden administration’s efforts to ramp up production of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine suggest that it sees the vaccine playing a bigger role in addressing the challenges ahead, such as the eventual need for children’s vaccine and possibly for boosters to counter virus variants, said a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it. Johnson & Johnson is conducting a trial of a two-shot vaccine, with the doses given two months apart, with results not expected until at least May. Johnson & Johnson did not respond to a request for comment. Merck did not comment on the deal but said it “remains steadfast in our commitment to contribute to the global response to the pandemic.''

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/03/02/merck-johnson-and-johnson-covid-vaccine-partnership/



Full headline: Biden to announce ‘historic partnership’: Merck will help make Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, officials say

This is interesting. As far as I know, Merck has sat this out...

ETA - here is an article I found that indicated that back in January, Merck was looking at getting into the action as a partner - https://www.fiercepharma.com/pharma/merck-after-canning-covid-19-vaccine-programs-talks-to-help-shot-production

Pharma
Merck canned its own COVID-19 vaccines. Now, it's in talks to manufacture other companies' shots

by Eric Sagonowsky | Feb 11, 2021 10:00am


After Merck & Co. got off to a late start in the COVID-19 vaccine race and made an early exit, the drug giant is in talks to aid the global vaccine manufacturing effort. The drugmaker is “actively involved” in discussions with governments, health agencies and other pharmaceutical companies to “identify the areas of pandemic response where we can play a role, including potential support for production of authorized vaccines," a spokesman said via email.

News of the talks comes about two weeks after Merck abandoned both its coronavirus vaccine candidates—one it acquired through its Themis buyout and the other it was studying in partnership with IAVI. Merck said the two shots had produced immune responses weaker than those prompted by natural infections as well as by other COVID-19 vaccines.Still, the company believes it has an “important responsibility to contribute to the pandemic response," the spokesman said, and remains "at the ready to do so."

While Merck hasn't indicated which companies it could help with production, there has been industry talk about a potential tie-up with Novavax. After the vaccine biotech last month presented positive phase 3 data on its candidate, Evercore ISI analyst Josh Schimmer said he suspected Merck might "step up" as Novavax's manufacturing partner. Novavax CEO Stan Erck then told CNBC's Meg Tirrell that Merck "could be a good partner for us as they don't have a competing product." He also named GSK as a company with those capabilities. At the time, Merck told Tirrell it was focused on therapeutics.

(snip)

Also this week, Teva said it was in talks to help with COVID-19 vaccine production. The company has sites in Israel, Europe and the U.S. that could be used in the global effort, CEO Kåre Schultz said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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