UPDATE 2-Merck buys rights to NewLink's experimental Ebola vaccine

Mon Nov 24, 2014 11:46am EST
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(Adds terms of deal, details on WHO-coordinated trials; updates share movement)

By Ransdell Pierson

Nov 24 (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc on Monday said it would buy worldwide commercial rights to NewLink Genetics Corp's experimental vaccine against the Ebola virus.

NewLink, whose subsidiary licensed commercial rights to the rVSV-EBOV vaccine in 2010, said it would receive $50 million plus royalties from Merck.

Large late-stage trials of the product could begin early next year, said Merck, the No. 2 U.S. drugmaker and one of the world's biggest makers of vaccines.

Merck, which will be able to speed up and significantly boost production, will take over development of the vaccine and any follow-on products.

The Public Health Agency of Canada, which originally developed the vaccine, will retain non-commercial rights to it.

The deal between Merck and NewLink, a tiny biotechnology company based in Ames, Iowa, comes as other drugmakers are also racing to test and scale up production of treatments and preventive vaccines for Ebola, which has killed more than 5,400 people this year.

It is the worst Ebola outbreak on record. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia account for all but 15 of the deaths.   Continued...