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Where Does Merck's Ebola Vaccine Breakthrough Leave Competitors?

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Where Does Merck's Ebola Vaccine Breakthrough Leave Competitors?

NewLink Genetics Corp (NASDAQ: NLNK) and licensing partner Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK) appear to have made a major breakthrough in prevention of one of the deadliest diseases in the world. This week, The Lancet reported 100 percent efficacy in Merck's final-stage trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine administered to more than 11,000 people exposed to the disease during a 2013–2016 outbreak in Guinea.

The outbreak killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa.

“While these compelling results come too late for those who lost their lives during West Africa’s Ebola epidemic, they show that when the next Ebola outbreak hits, we will not be defenseless,” the World Health Organization’s Marie-Paule Kieny said.

Shares of the $162 billion pharma giant Merck barely moved on the news, but shares of $313 million NewLink were up 10.49 percent in Friday’s session.

Competitors In The Space Rejoice Alongside Merck, NewLink

Surprisingly, shares of rival Ebola vaccine biotech stocks are joining in on the NewLink rally, even though their vaccine research is in much earlier stages. Sarepta Therapeutics Inc (NASDAQ: SRPT) shares were up 4.97 percent on Friday. The company’s Ebola vaccine candidate is currently in Phase I testing.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: BCRX) shares were up by 7.9 percent. The company’s Ebola vaccine candidate is currently in Phase I testing as well.

NewLink Chief Financial Officer John Henneman told Benzinga that the company will not be receiving any further milestone payments from Merck from this point forward. He expects the Ebola vaccine is “highly unlikely to drive future profit in [the] company.”

 

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