Merck has extended its partnership with Moderna to jointly develop and sell mRNA-4157/V940, an investigational personalised cancer vaccine (PCV).

In 2016, the companies entered a strategic partnership to develop novel messenger RNA (mRNA) based PCVs.

They subsequently expanded the collaboration to include the development of antigen mRNA cancer vaccines in 2018.

Under the latest deal terms, Merck will pay Moderna $250m to exercise its option for mRNA-4157/V940.

The mRNA-4157/V940 has been designed to stimulate an immune response by producing T-cell responses depending on the mutational signature of a patient’s tumour.

It is currently being assessed in combination with Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, Keytruda, as an adjuvant treatment for high-risk melanoma patients in a Phase II clinical trial being conducted by Moderna.

Merck Research Laboratories chief medical officer, global clinical development head and senior vice-president Dr Eliav Barr said: “This long-term collaboration combining Merck’s expertise in immuno-oncology with Moderna’s pioneering mRNA technology has yielded a novel tailored vaccine approach.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues at Moderna to advance mRNA-4157/V940 in combination with Keytruda as it aligns with our strategy to impact early-stage disease.”

The company said that the data from the ongoing Phase II trial will be reported in the fourth quarter of this year.

Moderna president Stephen Hoge said: “With data expected this quarter on PCV, we continue to be excited about the future and the impact mRNA can have as a new treatment paradigm in the management of cancer.

“Continuing our strategic alliance with Merck is an important milestone as we continue to grow our mRNA platform with promising clinical programmes in multiple therapeutic areas.”

Last month, Merck received approval from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) for Keytruda to treat various types of cancers.

Cell & Gene Therapy coverage on Pharmaceutical Technology is supported by Cytiva.

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