American pharmaceutical company Merck and France’s Pasteur Institute, two of the world’s leading vaccine manufacturers, are abandoning COVID-19 vaccine development after disappointing results in clinical trials. The two pharmaceutical companies had joined forces to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus in May last year.
The two companies had developed a vaccine based on an exiting measles vaccine and began Phase 1 testing in August. However, the vaccine wasn’t able to produce an immune response as robust as that found in a recovered COVID-19 patient.
A statement from the Pasteur Institute said, “In these first human trials, the prospective vaccine was well tolerated but produced immune responses that were inferior to those observed in people who had recovered naturally and to those observed in the authorised vaccines.”
Merck shares fell 1.8 percent to $79.51 as a result of the announcement. The company will now divert its attention to developing drugs to help treat COVID-19 symptoms. It already has a deal worth $356 million for anti-inflammatory medicine in severe COVID-19 patients if approved for emergency use.
The announcement has a big impact on a France’s candidate for a vaccine, as the country’s leading pharma company Sanofi is also having issues with its coronavirus vaccine. Sanofi was expected to have its vaccine ready by December last year and is now being urged to help produce already tested vaccines instead. The Pasteur Institute, however, will continue its effort to produce a viable vaccine and says that abandoning this particular vaccine “does not have any impact on the continuation of research by the Pasteur Institute into two other vaccine candidates which use different methodologies.”