Moderna leans into oncology with CytomX deal worth up to $1.2B
Published: Jan 06, 2023
By Tristan Manalac
Per the terms of the agreement, Moderna will make an upfront payment of $35 million, which includes a $5 million pre-paid research funding investment. Meanwhile, CytomX will remain eligible to receive up to around $1.2 billion in development, regulatory and commercial milestones.
The California-based cancer company will also receive tiered royalties on net global sales of any commercial product developed under the partnership.
Both companies will work collaboratively on the early stages of development, including drug discovery and pre-clinical assessments. Thereafter, Moderna will take responsibility for clinical development and subsequent commercialization. The pact also gives Moderna the option to join a future equity financing by CytomX.
The partnership will leverage each company’s core technologies. Moderna brings to the table its mRNA platform, which uses a cloud-based computational approach to design the sequence of the mRNA therapeutic to efficiently target a specific protein.
Meanwhile, CytomX will offer its proprietary Probody technology, which takes advantage of the heightened levels of proteases in a tumor’s microenvironment.
When they are first administered, the active sites of Probody therapeutics are masked to avoid off-target effects and toxicity in healthy tissues. Once in the vicinity of tumors, proteases unmask the Probody drugs, allowing them to exert their anti-cancer activity.
In a prepared statement, Sean McCarthy, CEO and chairman of CytomX, said Thursday’s partnership will bring together these two cutting-edge technologies and, through Moderna’s global footprint, help bring “novel, mRNA-based conditionally activated therapeutics to patients with unmet medical needs.”
Moderna Leans into Oncology
Though best known for its COVID-19 vaccines, the Massachusetts-based biotech has recently ramped up its cancer pipeline.
Last month, the company revealed that its mRNA vaccine for cancer mRNA-4157/V940 cleared the primary efficacy endpoint in the Phase IIb KEYNOTE-942 trial of patients with stage III/IV melanoma.
When given in combination with Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab), Moderna’s cancer vaccine cut the risk of death or recurrence by 44%, as opposed to Keytruda alone.
MRNA-4157/V940 is being developed with Merck.
To support its oncology efforts, Moderna is seeking to expand its mRNA manufacturing capabilities. On Wednesday, the company signed a definitive acquisition agreement with Japanese company OriCiro Genomics K.K for $85 million.
OriCiro develops tools for the cell-free synthesis and amplification of plasmid DNA, which are central to the production of mRNA therapeutics.