Feds help NewLink, Merck out with some added cash for Ebola vaccine
Two months after NewLink was forced to restructure and slash staff in the wake of a Phase III debacle on pancreatic cancer, the Ames, IA-based biotech and its Big Pharma partner Merck can celebrate some added federal research and manufacturing support for their Ebola vaccine.
BARDA — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority — is handing over $25 million in cash to back up work on V920. There’s another $51 million in added support if BARDA chooses to hand it over. The R&D ops group has already provided $76.8 million for this project, which was sped up considerably during a recent outbreak that has since burned out.
NewLink shares $NLNK surged 7% Wednesday on the news, part of an ongoing recovery that has helped the company’s stock climb back toward where it was trading when their Phase III flopped.
Ebola, though, is an ever present danger, and vaccine development is still underway at some of the majors, like J&J and GSK. Merck stepped in to partner with NewLink in late 2014, as headlines about the outbreak spread fear about the lethal virus. Last July the FDA handed the program a breakthrough therapy designation while the EU stepped up with a comparable inside track designation of its own.
“This new contract issued by BARDA will enable accelerated full-scale production of V920, once it is approved, and is a critical step in helping to make this vaccine available to the health care community as they work to control epidemics and protect medical workers and others at high risk,” said NewLink COO Thomas P. Monath in a prepared statement.