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2022-10-12| Partnerships

Moderna Gets $250 Million from MSD in Personal Cancer Vaccine Licensing Option

by Reed Slater
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Building on a 2016 licensing deal for personal cancer vaccines, Moderna is exercising its option to develop and commercialize mRNA-4157/V940 with Merck (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), bringing $250 million to the table for the mRNA-specialized company. Moderna said that Phase 2 clinical trial data would be available by the end of the year. 

The Partnership’s Progress So Far

In 2016, MSD laid down $200 million upfront to develop and commercialize novel mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines (PCVs). The deal involved multiple development programs across a range of cancers, all including MSD’s KEYTRUDA as an element of combination therapy with the PCVs. 

The two began developing mRNA-5671 shortly after to treat non-small cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic adenocarcinoma. During Phase 1 trials, though, MSD relinquished the rights of the drug back to Moderna earlier this year. Moderna said it would continue to develop the drug as a monotherapy and in combination with pembrolizumab. 

MSD’s interest in Moderna’s offerings did not stop after that hiccup. The company stood by Moderna, maintaining its stake in mRNA-4157, which is showing more promise than the previous offering. Already coming to the end of Phase 2 trials studying the vaccine’s safety and efficacy alongside KEYTRUDA to treat high-risk melanoma, the two companies still seem excited about the drug’s potential.

The most recent mRNA-4157 licensing option will bring Moderna $250 million to continue researching and developing the PCV. MSD will pay Moderna by the end of the third quarter, and as part of the deal, the two will share costs and profits equally from the drug.

Related Article: FDA Approves Both Moderna’s and Pfizer/BioNTech’s Omicron Bivalent Vaccines in One Day

Waiting for Upcoming Phase 2 Trial Results

Moderna designed mRNA-4157 to prime and stimulate the immune system to generate T-cell responses based on the mutational signature of a patient’s tumor. The personalized aspect could prove fruitful because it is tailored to a patient’s particular needs rather than a catch-all therapy, which may not target appropriate areas in certain patients. 

The collaborative Phase 2 trial, KEYNOTE-942, evaluates the safety and efficacy of mRNA-4157 in combination with KEYTRUDA in patients with complete resection of cutaneous melanoma with a high risk of recurrence. The study includes 157 participants, some of whom received up to nine doses of mRNA-4157 with KEYTRUDA every three weeks, compared to some treated with just KEYTRUDA. 

The trial’s primary endpoint is recurrence-free survival, with secondary endpoints including distant metastasis-free survival and overall survival. The two companies said that primary data would be available by the end of the year, which will shed light on the development project’s future.

After shaking up the vaccine game with its novel mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, Moderna is working tirelessly to leverage the technology in various other fields of interest to provide safer and more effective treatment options. MSD is on board with Moderna to develop personalized cancer vaccines, and the most recent licensing option will provide Moderna with $250 million to continue developing mRNA-4157, which could have a lasting impact on oncology.

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