Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and Moderna Therapeutics announced a strategic collaboration and license agreement to develop and commercialize novel messenger RNA (mRNA)-based personalized cancer vaccines.
The collaboration will combine Merck’s established leadership in immuno-oncology with Moderna’s pioneering mRNA vaccine technology and GMP manufacturing capabilities to advance individually tailored cancer vaccines for patients across a spectrum of cancers.
Moderna and Merck will develop personalized cancer vaccines that utilize Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology to encode a patient’s specific neoantigens, unique mutations present in that specific patient’s tumor. When injected into a patient, the vaccine will be designed to elicit a specific immune response that will recognize and destroy cancer cells. The companies believe that the mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines’ ability to specifically activate an individual patient’s immune system has the potential to be synergistic with checkpoint inhibitor therapies, including Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, KEYTRUDA® (pembrolizumab). In addition, Moderna has developed a rapid cycle time, small-batch manufacturing technique that will uniquely allow the company to supply vaccines tailored to individual patients within weeks.
Under the terms of the agreement, Merck will make an upfront cash payment to Moderna of $200 million, which Moderna will use to lead all research and development efforts through proof of concept. The development program will entail multiple studies in several types of cancer and include the evaluation of mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines in combination with Merck’s KEYTRUDA.
Moderna will also utilize the upfront payment to fund a portion of the build-out of a GMP manufacturing facility in suburban Boston for the purpose of personalized cancer vaccine manufacturing.
Moderna Therapeutics is a U.S. biotechnology company that is focused on drug discovery and drug development based on messenger RNA.