Moderna Therapeutics recently received an additional $125 million in funding through an expanded partnership with Merck. The funding is for a personalized cancer vaccine.
The vaccine is called mRNA-5671. It targets mutations in a gene called KRAS. Moderna says that these mutations occur in about 90% of pancreatic cancers and 30% of non-small-cell lung cancers (NSCLC).
MRNA-5671 is a therapeutic vaccine. It helps the immune system recognize and attack certain markers on cancer cells. The drug is designed to target KRAS mutations found in NSCLC, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Merck has granted the $125 million as series H preferred equity. Moderna completed a series G equity financing earlier in 2018. The company has now raised more than $1.6 billion in equity and $1 billion through partnership payments, CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC.
The two companies will work together to advance mRNA-5671 through human studies. They also plan to conduct combination studies with more immuno-oncology therapies.
Merck will take charge of the clinical development of mRNA-5671 and associated costs. Moderna, on the other hand, will be responsible for clinical supply and linked costs.
When the human proof-of-concept studies are complete, Merck may choose to further develop and commercialize the vaccine after paying an undisclosed fee to Moderna.
The agreement also allows the companies to collaborate on additional cancer vaccine programs.
The funding is a step toward Moderna’s plan to develop and commercialize its innovative messenger RNA (mRNA) drugs through strategic relationships with established pharmaceutical companies.
The partnership is also part of a wave of biotech acquisitions. The large pharmaceutical firms have been teaming up with small-cap biotech firms to tap into their research and develop new drugs.
About Moderna Therapeutics
Moderna was founded in 2010 and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a biotechnology company that focuses on drug discovery and drug development based on mRNA. These drugs produce proteins or antibodies inside patient cells. The breakthrough technology is an alternative for existing drugs to treat a wide range of diseases. The company also focuses on oncology to study and treat tumors.