Moderna (MRNA) shares surged higher Wednesday after the drugmaker said it will work with Merck & Co (MRK) to develop and market an mRNA structed cancer vaccine.
Moderna said it will exercise and earlier option with Merck to allow the collaboration of its new messenger RNA-based vaccine, known as mRNA-4157, to be developed alongside Merck's blockbuster Keytruda treatment. Merck will pay Moderna $250 million as part of the option agreement.
Personalized cancer vaccines, the companies said, are designed to prime the immune system so that a patient can generate a tailored antitumor response to their tumor mutation signature to treat their cancer. The new vaccine, Moderna said, is undergoing mid-stage trials with data expected before the end of the year.
"We have been collaborating with Merck on PCVs since 2016, and together we have made significant progress in advancing mRNA-4157 as an investigational personalized cancer treatment used in combination with Keytruda," said Moderna president Stephen Hoge.
"With data expected this quarter on PCV, we continue to be excited about the future and the impact mRNA can have as a new treatment paradigm in the management of cancer. Continuing our strategic alliance with Merck is an important milestone as we continue to grow our mRNA platform with promising clinical programs in multiple therapeutic areas."
Moderna shares were marked 8.5% higher in pre-market trading following news of the collaboration with Merck to indicate an opening bell price of $130.80 each. Merck shares, meanwhile, edged 0.3% higher to $91.31 each.
Earlier this year, Moderna re-affirmed its full-year forecast for Covid vaccine sales, forecasting overall revenues of around $21 billion, with orders weighted slightly into the second half of the year.
The group also said it would sue Pfizer (PFE) , as well as its German partner BioNTech (BNTX) , for allegedly copying its messenger-RNA technologies.
Moderna said it will seek unspecified relief in both a U.S. and German court after altering its pledge not to enforce patents related to its mRNA-1273 coronavirus vaccine, known as Spikevax in wealthy countries.
The drugmaker said it had expected Pfizer and Moderna to consider a "commercially reasonable" licensing agreement as a result, but have to date "failed to do so".