Merck & Co Inc. (NYSE:MERK) is returning all rights to the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine to Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) barely after helping take the vaccine into the clinic. The vaccine dubbed mRNA-1172 used Merck’s lipid nanoparticle delivery.
Merck to hand over RSV rights to Moderna
The pharmaceutical company is doubling down on its in-house RSV antibody program currently in Phase 2 testing but will see the Moderna vaccine through the phase 1 study before handing it back. Moderna has commenced dosing on its Phase 1 trial of mRNA-1345, its sole-owned RSV vaccine candidate. It is planning to advance the vaccine in children through a combination of mRNA-1653. mRNA-1653 is popular in protecting against two pediatric respiratory vaccines, PIV3, and hMPV.
In a statement, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that they were thankful for the collaboration they have had with Merck to date. Bancel said that they are delighted to continue advancing the mRNA-1345 vaccine, which utilizes their proprietary delivery tech. She added that with the consolidation of their portfolio, they will continue pursuing RSV vaccines to protect children and older adults’ vulnerable populations.
Merck and Moderna to continue collaborating on oncology vaccines
Although the companies are severing ties on the RSV vaccine, they will continue collaborating on Oncology. They partnered in 2016 on a personalized cancer deal, and two years later, they added a vaccine for KRAS-mutated cancers. The company’s personalized vaccine program, mRNA-4157, depends on neoantigens found in tumors of individual patients. They then build custom mRNA strands that contain instructions for making of the neoantigens by the body and thus trigger an attack on them by the immune system. mRNA-4157 is currently in the second phase melanoma study in combination with Merck’s Keytruda against Keytruda alone.
Also, mRNA5671, a KRAS candidate, is in the first phase trial evaluating its safety combined with Keytruda or as a standalone drug. The trial will involve KRAS mutated cancer patients that include those with pancreatic and non-small cell lung cancers.