Moderna and Merck will collectively develop a most cancers vaccine for high-risk melanoma sufferers

Pipettes are seen at Moderna Therapeutics Inc.’s laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, November 14, 2017. Moderna started testing this week

Adam Glanzmann | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Modern and note will jointly develop and sell a cancer vaccine personalized for individual patients, the companies announced on Wednesday.

Moderna’s vaccine, based on its messenger RNA technology, is being studied in a Phase 2 study in combination with Merck’s Keytruda to treat patients with high-risk melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The companies expect to report data in the fourth quarter of this year.

Moderna’s stock rose 16% in morning trade before giving up some of that lead. Shares of the company rose about 10% in afternoon trade.

Moderna’s vaccine is designed to trigger the immune system to deploy killer T cells that target the specific mutations in a patient’s tumors. Merck’s Keytruda is a monoclonal antibody given as an injection that blocks certain cell proteins from preventing T cells from attacking.

The companies originally entered into the agreement in 2016, but Merck is now exercising its option by paying Moderna $250 million. Merck will participate in the development and commercialization of the product. The companies will share all costs and profits equally.

Moderna became a household name during the pandemic after developing one of the most successful vaccines against Covid-19 in collaboration with the US National Institutes of Health.

But the Covid vaccine is Moderna’s only commercially available product. The Boston-based biotech is under increasing pressure to demonstrate how its messenger RNA technology can be used against other diseases.

Moderna expects $21 billion in Covid vaccine sales this year as it introduces new booster shots targeting the Omicron variant.

Keytruda is Merck’s largest drug, accounting for 35% of the company’s total sales in the second quarter. It has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat various types of cancer.

CNBC Health & Science

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