Merck forges Alzheimer’s pact with Cerevance

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) could pay more than $1 billion to the Boston-based biotech startup Cerevance to develop potential drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

The collaboration will center around Cerevance’s Nuclear Enriched Transcript Sort sequencing (NETSseq) technology platform.

The platform’s origins trace back to research at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Under the terms of the deal with Merck, Cerevance will license its preclinical Alzheimer’s drug program to Merck.

Merck will now pay Cerevance $25 million and could pay an additional $1.1 billion in milestone-based payments plus potential royalties.

Although there are a handful of FDA-approved drugs for Alzheimer’s, most focus on treating the symptoms rather than the cause of the condition.

One exception is Biogen’s aducanumab, which reduces amyloid deposits in the brain. It is not yet clear, however, if the drug has a cognitive benefit for patients.

Conversely, Cerev…

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GSK wins FDA approval for Priorix MMR vaccine

GSK plc (LSE/NYSE:GSK) has announced that the FDA has approved the Priorix measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine for individuals at least 12 months old.

Before the FDA approval, Merck & Co.’s M-M-R II was the only MMR vaccine currently FDA approved in the U.S. Merck also has a FDA-approved measles, mumps, rubella and varicella vaccine known as ProQuad.

Priorix is widely available throughout the world, having been licensed in more than 100 countries. More than 800 million doses have been distributed.

“We’re proud to make Priorix available in the U.S. for the first time, adding a choice for providers to help protect patients against these highly-contagious diseases and to further strengthen offerings in our pediatric vaccine portfolio,” said Judy Stewart, senior vice president and head of U.S. vaccines at GSK, in a news release.

Measles, mumps and rubella are highly contagious diseases.

In the U.S., measles surged in 2019, infecting at…

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Moderna names former Merck exec as new chief commercial officer

COVID-19 vaccine developer Moderna (Nasdaq:MRNA) has named Arpa Garay as its chief commercial officer starting May 31, 2022.

Garay worked more than 15 years at Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK). In February, she was promoted to the post of chief marketing officer for Merck’s human health division. Garay also was a member of the company’s executive committee.

Arpa Garay

At Moderna, Garay will report directly to CEO Stéphane Bancel.

Garay has won several awards. She was named a G100 Next Gen Leader, Fortune named her as one of the “Most powerful Women: Next Gen” while Business Insider India and the Philadelphia Business Journal included her in rankings of leaders under 40.

“I am grateful and excited to work with an inspiring team and build a commercial organization to bring the transformative impact of Moderna’s mRNA science to improve lives around the world across many diseases,̶…

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BMJ op-ed calls molnupiravir authorization ‘premature’ 

Image courtesy of Merck & Co.

A recent editorial in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) criticized the decisions of British and U.S. health regulators to authorize the use of the antiviral molnupiravir, the COVID-19 antiviral.

The developers of the drug, Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, had announced that molnupiravir lowered the risk of hospital admissions or death by roughly 50% in the 29 days following infection with COVID-19.

WHO recently updated its treatment guidelines to include the drug for high-risk individuals. The organization based its decision on new data from six randomized controlled studies involving 4,796 patients.

Authorizations of molnupiravir will “inhibit further necessary evaluations” and could divert funding from more effective treatments, argued author James M Brophy, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at McGill University Health Center.<…

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Japanese government agrees to buy 1.6 million molnupiravir courses

Image courtesy of Merck & Co.

Merck & Co. (NYSE:MRK) and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics will sell approximately 1.6 million courses of the COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir (MK-4482, EIDD-2801).

In related news, Thailand announced that it intends to purchase 50,000 courses of the drug while Taiwan plans on obtaining 10,000 courses. 

The U.S. plans on purchasing roughly 3.1 million courses of molnupiravir. 

The UK authorized the drug last week. 

Assuming molnupiravir receives authorization or approval in Japan, Merck stands to gain approximately $1.2 billion to cover the 1.6 million courses. That equates to roughly $750 per course — slightly higher than the going rate in the U.S. 

The company has also taken steps to ensure the drug is affordable in developing countries. For example, it is offering tiered pricing based on nations’ economic means and has also granted vol…

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