In 2016, the Merck he made a great "leap of faith" in Science. He gave a whopping $ 200 million to Modern for research and development of personalized cancer vaccines based on m. In fact, at the time, this technology had not yet been approved for use in any form.
It was not a completely disinterested faith, of course. Part of that agreement specified that if Moderna were able to complete proof-of-concept studies of an mRNA vaccine for humans, Merck would have the option to pay an (undisclosed) amount to co-develop and commercialize this. vaccine.
Since then, mRNA has proven very valuable with vaccine development Covid-19, albeit in different and not entirely quantifiable measures (and with as many adverse effects yet to be fully explored). Based on these studies and others still in progress, an mRNA vaccine against cancer now seems just around the corner.
MRNA vaccine against cancer, Merck "goes for the box"
Merck is now exercising its option on mRNA-4157, a melanoma vaccine currently in phase 2 testing. The pharmaceutical company and Moderna are studying it in combination with Keytruda, a monoclonal antibody.
"This long-term collaboration that combines Merck's expertise in immuno-oncology with Moderna's pioneering mRNA technology has produced a new tailored vaccine approach," he says. Eliav Barr, head of global clinical development and CMO of Merck Research Laboratories.
Vaccine mRNA, first of all: it is a Yes or No vaccine?
Disclaimer: This has been a divisive issue for a few years now, and I know there will be some controversy over the very definition of "vaccine". When there are mechanisms of action and new technologies, it is always difficult to redefine the boundaries. I leave this debate to virologists, real and keyboard, and I limit myself to using the word "vaccine" as received by the agencies that first broke the news.
A personalized approach
Moderna's anticancer mRNA vaccine is unique in that it is created specifically for each patient, unlike others that are mass-produced. Also, this vaccine works to treat an existing disease rather than prevent it altogether.
To create each vaccine, Moderna uses a sample of the patient's tumor. It then uses genetic sequencing technology to identify proteins present in the tissue, called "neoantigens". These are found only on the surface of cancer cells and differ from person to person based on their tumor.
Moderna's technology then creates an mRNA vaccine that instructs the formation of 34 cancer-specific neoantigens. These neoantigens will be potential targets of an immune response. The goal is to help the immune system identify and attack cancer cells more effectively. And given the investments, we are likely to have rather comforting results.
What happens now
In Moderna's Phase 2 study of mRNA-4157, 157 patients with high-risk melanoma they underwent surgical removal of the tumor. Some were then given nine doses of a personalized mRNA vaccine and one dose of Keytruda every three weeks for a year. The others only received Keytruda once every three weeks, again for a year.
The primary goal of the study is relapse survival, and if we take Merck's new investment as a clue, positive results are reasonable to expect.
"Looking forward to the results expected for this quarter," said the president of Moderna stephen hoge, "We continue to be excited about the future and the impact mRNA can have as a new treatment paradigm in cancer management."
It is appropriate to say, excuse the cynicism: who will live, will see.