Drugs Pharma

Merck pays Moderna $250m for joint development of skin cancer vaccine

BioNTech signs pact with Australia

HQ Team

October 13, 2022:Merck, the Big Pharma, has signed a deal with Moderna to develop a therapeutic cancer vaccine personalized for individual patients.

The agreement was initially entered in 2016, but Merck is now exercising its option to develop and sell the product through a $250 million payment to Moderna. The companies will share all costs and profits equally.

Based on its mRNA technology, Moderna’s vaccine is being studied in combination with Merck’s Keytruda to treat patients with high-risk melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The vaccine is in a phase two trial. The companies expect to report data in the fourth quarter of this year.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved Merck’s Keytruda to treat several different types of cancer.

Moderna’s vaccine (mRNA-4157 ) triggers the immune system to deploy T cells targeting specific mutations of a patient’s tumors. Merck’s Keytruda is a monoclonal antibody that prevents cell proteins from attacking the T cells. 

Moderna is expecting primary data from the 157-participant KEYNOTE-942 trial this quarter. Participants in the study were given up to nine doses of mRNA-4157 at 21-day intervals. The mRNA-4157-Keytruda combination missed the mark in a colorectal cancer trial. It gave better results in a small head and neck cancer phase 1 study. 

“We continue to be excited about the future, and the impact mRNA can have as a new treatment paradigm in the management of cancer,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge, M.D., said in a release. “Continuing our strategic alliance with Merck is an important milestone as we continue to grow our mRNA platform with promising clinical programs in multiple therapeutic areas.”

Moderna gained popularity after developing one of the most successful vaccines against Covid-19 in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The covid-19 vaccine is Moderna’s only commercial product. The Boston-based biotech company is under pressure to expand the usage of its mRNA technology against other diseases.

Moderna expects $21 billion in Covid vaccine sales this year as it rolls out new booster shots that target the omicron variant.

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