Moderna is set to expand its pipeline of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based products with three new development programmes.

The programmes comprise mRNA vaccine candidates against varicella-zoster virus (VSV) to lower the rate of shingles, herpes simplex virus (HSV) and a new checkpoint cancer vaccine. 

The latest development builds on the company’s experience with its Covid-19 vaccine, Spikevax. 

Currently, the company has five vaccine candidates in the developmental stage for latent viruses such as cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), HSV and VZV.

Moderna’s mRNA-1608 is an HSV vaccine candidate against HSV-2 disease. 

According to the company, the HSV-2 vaccine is anticipated to offer cross-protection against HSV-1.

Using mRNA-1608, Moderna intends to elicit a robust antibody response with neutralising, as well as effector functionality, along with cell-mediated immunity. 

Also called herpes, HSV is of two types, with HSV-1 affecting the mouth, face and genitals while HSV-2 mainly affects the genitals. 

Another vaccine candidate of the company against varicella-zoster virus (VZV), mRNA-1468, is intended to express varicella-zoster virus (VZV) glycoprotein E (gE). 

Such an approach aids in reducing the VZV-caused shingles (herpes zoster) rate. 

The third is a new checkpoint cancer vaccine candidate, mRNA-4359, that expresses antigens for programmed death-ligand 1 and Indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase

This vaccine is intended to induce effector T-cells that act to destroy suppressive immune and tumour cells that express these antigens. 

Furthermore, the company intends to study the vaccine indications for advanced or metastatic cutaneous melanoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma in the initial stage.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said: “We are pleased to announce these new development programmes, which reflect the continued productivity of our platform and the potential of our mRNA technology to impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people. 

“With our new checkpoint cancer vaccine, we look forward to exploring if we can induce T cells specific to PD-L1 and IDO1 through vaccination.”

The latest move comes after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Biologics License Application (BLA) submitted by the company for its Covid-19 vaccine for usage in individuals of age 18 years and above.