Back in 2016, Merck paid Moderna $200 million to develop personalized cancer vaccines based on people’s mRNA. Today, that doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but six years ago mRNA technology hadn’t yet found a practical use in the context of a vaccine. Part of the deal was that after proof-of-concept studies, Merck could pay an unspecified amount to co-develop and commercialize the shots with Moderna. According to a recent Freethink* article, that time has come, and the unspecified has been disclosed as $250 million.
Merck is now making use of mRNA-4157, the personalized cancer vaccine, in studies where it is combined with their cancer treatment Keytruda. The new cancer vaccine is unique in that it treats an existing disease rather than preventing it, and is personalized for each patient. Moderna has an ongoing phase 2 trial of mRNA-4157 that includes 157 patients with high-risk melanoma who had their tumors surgically removed.