Moderna Therapeutics and Merck’s mRNA Cancer Vaccines Collaboration


Goodwin’s Life Sciences team advised Moderna Therapeutics.

Moderna Therapeutics and Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, expanded their 2016 collaboration to develop and commercialize novel personalized messenger RNA (mRNA) cancer vaccines to now include shared antigen mRNA cancer vaccines including mRNA-5671, Moderna’s mRNA KRAS cancer vaccine.

Moderna developed mRNA-5671 starting in 2017. The two companies will now advance jointly mRNA-5671 in human studies, and plan to conduct combination studies with additional immuno-oncology therapies.

Under the expanded agreement, Merck will be responsible for clinical development of mRNA-5671 and associated costs while Moderna will be responsible for clinical supply and associated costs. Following the completion of human proof-of-concept (hPOC) studies, Merck may opt-in on further development and commercialization of mRNA-5671 upon payment of an undisclosed fee to Moderna. Following opt-in, the parties will share equally the global net profits and costs associated with mRNA-5671. As part of this agreement, the parties may also initiate and collaborate on other shared antigen mRNA cancer vaccines programs. In addition, Merck will make a $125 million investment in Moderna in newly priced series H preferred equity. Moderna closed a series G round earlier this year.

KRAS is one of the most frequently mutated oncogenes in human cancer, occurring in approximately 90 percent of pancreatic cancers and 30 percent of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), where they are associated with worse outcomes. Presentation of epitopes containing KRAS mutations to the immune system may elicit an anti-tumor response. mRNA-5671 encodes for the four most commonly found KRAS mutations, and is designed to target most of the KRAS mutations that occur in NSCLC, colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer.

The Moderna KRAS mRNA program utilizes tumor sequencing to identify suitable patients with specific mutations in KRAS in order to personalize their therapy, and complements the other personalized mRNA cancer vaccines in the collaboration.

The Goodwin team was led by partners Sarah Solomon (Picture), Kingsley Taft, John Mutkoski and Stuart Cable and included counsel Todd Hahn and associates Erini Svokos, Patricia Mets, Noelle Dubiansky, Amoli Pandya and Sarah Smith.

Involved fees earner: Sarah Solomon – Goodwin Procter; Kingsley Taft – Goodwin Procter; Erini Svokos – Goodwin Procter; Noelle Dubiansky – Goodwin Procter; Amoli Pandya – Goodwin Procter; John Mutkoski – Goodwin Procter; Stuart Cable – Goodwin Procter; Patricia Mets – Goodwin Procter; Sarah Smith – Goodwin Procter; Todd Hahn – Goodwin Procter;

Law Firms: Goodwin Procter;

Clients: Moderna Therapeutics;

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Author: Ambrogio Visconti