Johnson & Johnson, Vaccine, Coronavirus Merck ends Covid vaccine program but continues to work on treatments

What are the details? Yeah? Well, so some good news and some bad news for mark this morning. You know they were working both on vaccines and on therapeutics they’re announcing this morning that they are stopping work on those vaccine candidates, but continuing to work on the two drug candidates that they have in development on the vaccine. Front it’s because early results showed that the immune response generated by these vaccines – it was not at the level of what we have seen from other more advanced vaccines. So they are stopping work on those two early stage – vaccine candidates for covid19, but they are continuing the work on their drugs and development for covid, which arguably have generated more attention for merck. One of them is the one that they licensed from a company called reach. Back it’s, a small molecule drug, an antiviral that you could actually take by mouth so orally uh like a pill um, and that is one that people are very excited about and they say they should have data in the first quarter. Uh and we’ll share that you know if positive um, and so that is when people are really looking forward to hearing about the other. One, of course, is a drug that they just acquired for people with severe covet infection who are in the hospital and that one they already have a government contract for and are ramping up, production of uh but guys they’re continuing that work on those drugs.

But because the vaccines were not measuring up in the early stage trials, they are discontinuing that work back over to you, so meg uh, give it to us inquiring minds want to know what what what? What was it a spike protein in an adeno viral vector? What was it that was different about the merc vaccine? It’S, not it’s, it’s, not a messenger rna, but should we worry about j and j now, but is it an ad no tell us uh? No, they actually used two different approaches: uh both were viral vector vaccines. Um so similar to the approach being used by johnson, johnson and astrazeneca, but different viruses exactly so, there was a measles virus and then a vesicular stomatitis virus vsv, which actually is the same approach that they used for their evolution despite protein carrying a spike. The same spike protein or like gottlieb always says an epitope of the spike. We can ask him about this, maybe, but it was it trying to focus on the spike protein. Once again, i do believe uh. It was focusing on the spike protein, but i don’t have those details at my fingertips: yeah didn’t work: okay, becky, hey meg! Let me let me just ask when they say it was an inferior immune response. I guess that means it. Didn’T get the same efficacy levels and we know the existing ones that we’ve gotten already from moderna and pfizer are incredibly effective at 95. Is there any way to to figure out how effective it was? Was it even before that, if it’s not getting the same immune response, because when we first started trying to develop these, we were thinking if you could get 50 to 60 effectiveness? That would be great news.

Have we changed our entire standards at this point? Where, if something’s only 70 effective we’re, not as interested when we have existing candidates that are already 95 effective, because that’s been the same thing, i’ve been wondering about j and j too um. We know that it. It did inspire an immune response for j and j. We don’t know how effective and we’re waiting to to find out it’s it. It gets to the point where, if you have a lot of different vaccines, that aren’t as effective is there some sort of a fight that breaks out over which one you get how you? How you go about that? What can you tell us if anything, those are such important questions and, of course our standards have been raised right, seeing 95 efficacy for the first, two vaccines we’re all spoiled, and we all want 95 percent efficacy from the next one uh. You know from expectations around johnson johnson’s vaccine we’re hearing you know, could it be 80? Could it be 90? The fda standard is the same. You know 50 efficacy um in terms of what will get approved. I believe that is still the efficacy hurdle. However, you know what people will actually want once it gets out on the market is a separate question. Um. What merck was looking at here was just that earlier stage immune response, so just what level of antibodies did the vaccines generate in those earlier trials? We don’t know what the levels were, they haven’t published them yet, and they say that they will.

But what we’ve seen from the johnson johnson early stage trials is that they did generate a higher level of antibodies um. So you know comparable to the mrna vaccines. I was told by j’s chief scientific officer, so they have confidence that they’ll generate strong efficacy in actually protecting people from the disease. But we should be seeing that within a week or two for merck. I guess the levels just were not high enough both compared with existing vaccines and also with natural infection, and they say this just isn’t worth pursuing for covin shepard smith.

What do you think?

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