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Merck licenses Moderna’s RNA-based antiviral vaccines and passive immunity therapies

Posted on 14 January 2015

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Moderna Therapeutics announced a license and collaboration agreement with Merck for the discovery and development of vaccines and passive immunity treatments against viral diseases using modified messenger RNA (mRNA).

Moderna is a pioneer in the development of mRNA Therapeutics across a range of therapeutic applications.

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Moderna’s work in the collaboration will be led by Valera, its venture focused on the development of mRNA vaccines and therapeutics to fight infectious disease.

The vaccines work of Valera builds on a body of preclinical research at Moderna showing the ability of modified mRNA to express viral antigens in vivo and to induce robust immune responses.

Valera’s therapeutic passive immunity programs will expand on Moderna’s research using mRNA to express antibodies that bind to viral and other targets.

The robust data in these programs across a range of preclinical infectious disease models, together with the inherent, rapid turn-around time in creating novel mRNA constructs, provide Valera with a potentially powerful and versatile new platform for the creation of a broad array of vaccines and passive immunity therapies.

The three-year research collaboration (with the possibility of a one-year extension) is focused on the development of new mRNA-based treatments and vaccines against four undisclosed viruses.

Merck will make an upfront cash payment to Moderna of $50 million to give Merck the ability to utilize the granted licenses to commercialize five product candidates, and will make a $50 million equity investment in Moderna.

Moderna will be eligible for undisclosed per-product development and commercial milestones under the license as well as tiered royalties on commercial sales.

Merck will lead the discovery and development of candidates and commercialization of any products resulting from this license and collaboration agreement, while Moderna will design and synthesize the messenger RNA product candidates directed against selected targets.

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