AstraZeneca and Moderna Therapeutics link up to develop immuno-oncology mRNA therapeutics

Extension to an mRNA agreement for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases set up in 2013

AstraZeneca has signed a new agreement with Moderna Therapeutics to develop messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutic candidates for the treatment of a range of cancers. mRNA-based therapies enable the body to produce therapeutic protein in vivo, opening up new treatment options for a range of diseases that cannot be addressed today using existing technologies.

The collaboration adds to a 2013 agreement between the two firms to develop mRNA Therapeutics for the treatment of cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases as well as selected targets in oncology.

Under the terms of the new agreement, AstraZeneca and Moderna have agreed to collaborate on two specific immuno-oncology programmes, based on promising pre-clinical data, including pharmacology in tumour models. Moderna will fund and be responsible for discovery and preclinical development of product candidates, with the aim of delivering one Investigational New Drug (IND) application-ready molecule for each of the two programmes. Moderna’s efforts will be led by its oncology-focused venture, Onkaido.

This new agreement with AstraZeneca demonstrates the effectiveness of our existing relationship and the power of our mRNA technology

AstraZeneca will be responsible for early clinical development, led by its MedImmune biologics arm, and Moderna and AstraZeneca will share the costs of late-stage clinical development. The two companies will co-commercialise resulting products in the US under a 50:50 profit sharing arrangement. AstraZeneca will lead ex-US commercialisation efforts, with Moderna receiving tiered royalties on ex-US sales.

Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive of AstraZeneca, said: 'We’re pleased to be expanding our relationship with Moderna with this new collaboration, to advance the potential of pioneering messenger RNA technology in developing game-changing new treatments for cancer patients.'

Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive of Moderna, added: 'Since our companies’ original strategic agreement in March 2013, Moderna’s relationship with AstraZeneca has been very fruitful. This new agreement with AstraZeneca demonstrates the effectiveness of our existing relationship and the power of our mRNA technology.'

Under the companies’ original strategic agreement, AstraZeneca holds exclusive access to select any target of its choice in cardiometabolic diseases, as well as select targets in oncology, over a period of up to five years for subsequent development in mRNA. Several projects are progressing towards clinical development under the arrangement, and a first-in-human study is expected to commence in late 2016.

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