Merck signs $356 million deal with U.S. government for experimental COVID-19 therapy

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Shares of Merck & Co. Inc. gained 0.4% in premarket trading on Wednesday after the drugmaker said it signed a deal with the U.S. government to develop, manufacture, and distribute an experimental COVID-19 therapy. The $356 million deal gives the government access to up to 100,000 doses of the therapy through June, if it’s approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Merck gained access to the investigational drug, MK-7110, through its $425 million acquisition of the privately held OncoImmune in November. OncoImmune in September said early results from an ongoing Phase 3 study for the drug in about 200 severely ill COVID-19 patients found it improved clinical status and reduced the risk of death and respiratory failure, when compared to the placebo. It had initially been tested as a treatment for graft versus host disease, a type of condition that can occur after a transplant. Merck’s stock is down 12.7% this year, while the S&P 500 is up 16.2%.
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