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Agreement to Boost Development of Novel RNA-Based Personalized Cancer Vaccines

By Labmedica International staff writers
Posted on 11 Jul 2016
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A strategic collaboration and license agreement is set to boost the development and commercialization of novel messenger RNA (mRNA)-based personalized cancer vaccines.

Merck and Co. (Kenilworth, NJ, USA) and Moderna Therapeutics (Cambridge, MA, USA) announced the agreement, which kicks off with Merck making an upfront cash payment to Moderna of 200 million USD.

Moderna will use this money to fund research and development efforts through the proof of concept stage. The development program will comprise multiple studies in several types of cancers and include the evaluation of mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines in combination with Merck’s chemotherapy agent Keytruda. Keytruda (pembrolizumab) is a humanized antibody used in cancer immunotherapy that targets the programmed cell death 1 (PD-1) receptor.

Moderna will also utilize a portion of the upfront payment to establish a GMP manufacturing facility for personalized cancer vaccines in suburban Boston, MA, USA. Moderna has developed a rapid cycle time, small-batch manufacturing technique that allows the company to supply vaccines tailored to individual patients within weeks.

Following human proof of concept studies, Merck may elect to make an additional undisclosed payment to Moderna. If this option is exercised, the two companies will then equally share cost and profits under a worldwide collaboration for the development of personalized cancer vaccines.

“Combining immunotherapy with vaccine technology may be a new path toward improving outcomes for patients,” said Dr. Roger Perlmutter, president of Merck Research Laboratories. “While the area of personalized cancer vaccine research has faced challenges in the past, there have been many recent advances, and we believe that working with Moderna to combine an immuno-oncology approach, using Keytruda, with mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines may have the potential to transform the treatment of cancer.”

“Our team has made significant progress since beginning our work in personalized cancer vaccines just last year. Through this collaboration with Merck, we are now well-positioned to accelerate research and development with a goal of entering the clinic in 2017, as well as to apply our unique GMP manufacturing capabilities to support the rapid production of these highly individualized vaccines,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna. “We value our continued collaboration with Merck, and we look forward to working together to harness the potential of personalized cancer vaccines and immuno-oncology to bring a new treatment paradigm to patients.”

Related Links:
Moderna Therapeutics

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