MERCK opted to jointly develop and potentially sell a personalised mRNA vaccine with Moderna for a US$250 million upfront payment on Wednesday (Oct 12), sending the vaccine maker's shares up over 8 per cent.
Moderna's experimental vaccine is being tested in combination with Merck's blockbuster cancer immunotherapy, Keytruda, in a mid-stage trial to treat patients with melanoma. Data on the vaccine, mRNA-4157, is expected in the fourth quarter of this year.
With the size of the Covid-19 vaccine market expected to contract in subsequent years from the levels seen in 2021, Moderna has been pinning its hopes on its non-Covid vaccines which includes influenza and respiratory syncytial virus shots.
The cancer vaccine is tailored for each patient to generate T-cells, a key part of the body's immune response, based on the specific mutational signature of a tumour.
In 2016, Merck and Moderna entered a strategic partnership to develop a personalised vaccine for treatment of various types of cancer.
Merck in 2020 sold its equity investment in Moderna, benefiting from a surge in the vaccine-maker's stock price that year. REUTERS