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Merck & Co, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ COVID-19 drug shows early promise

Molnupiravir led to a faster decrease in infectious virus among participants with early COVID-19

Merck & Co – known as MSD outside the US and Canada – and Ridgeback Therapeutics have revealed early promising data for their oral COVID-19 antiviral drug molnupiravir.

The preliminary data comes from Ridgeback’s phase 2a trial evaluating molnupiravir’s safety, tolerability and efficacy in eliminating SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA in non-hospitalised adults who had signs or symptoms of COVID-19.

The trial enrolled patients who had experienced COVID-19 signs or symptoms within seven days and a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection.

According to the early data, presented at the 2021 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, molnupiravir led to a “quicker decrease in infectious virus among individuals with early COVID-19”.

At day five of molnupiravir treatment, there was a reduction in positive viral culture in subjects who received the experimental drug compared to placebo – 0% for molnupiravir and 24% for placebo.

“We are very pleased to share our initial phase 2 infectivity data at this important conference, which remains at the forefront for critical clinical scientific information in infectious diseases,” said Wendy Painter, chief medical officer of Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

“At a time where there is unmet need for antiviral treatments against SARS-CoV-2, we are encouraged by these preliminary data,” she added.

In a statement, Merck & Co and Ridgeback said that full findings from the primary efficacy and safety endpoints, as well as additional secondary endpoints, will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting.

“We continue to make progress in our phase 2/3 clinical programs evaluating molnupiravir in both outpatient and hospital settings and plan to provide updates when appropriate,” said Roy Baynes, senior vice president and head of global clinical development, chief medical officer, Merck Research Laboratories.

Molnupiravir is being evaluated in phase 2/3 clinical trials in hospital and outpatients settings, with a primary completion date set for May 2021.

Merck & Co is also investigating a potentially first-in-class recombinant fusion protein known as MK-7110, which is designed to target a novel immune pathway checkpoint believed to be involved in the body’s inflammatory response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Earlier this year, Merck & Co announced that it would end its COVID-19 vaccine programme after reviewing some disappointing phase 1 results for its candidates V590 and V591.

Although both V590 and V591 were generally well-tolerated in the phase 1 trials, immune responses for the candidates were inferior to those observed in recovered COVID-19 patients as well as those reported for other vaccines.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

8th March 2021

From: Research



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