CureVac and Yale Team Up for mRNA-Based Lung Therapies
CureVac focuses on mRNA therapeutics. Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a family of RNA molecules that transport genetic information from DNA to the ribosome, where it specifies the amino acid sequence that creates proteins. In theory, by coding your own mRNA, it should be possible to insert it into the cells and turn the cells themselves into protein factories churning out whatever drug or molecule you program it to.
Under the terms of the deal with Yale University, Yale researchers led by Geoff Chupp will conduct discovery research on targets associated with pulmonary diseases, then turn over the candidates to CureVac for preclinical and clinical development. CureVac will fund all the discovery research and hold the acquisition options to rights for the targets.
“mRNA therapeutics are at the forefront of drug development and CureVac is a leader in the field,” Chupp stated. “We are very excited about the opportunity to merge our expertise in genomics of lung disease with CureVac’s expertise in mRNA therapeutic development to develop novel therapeutics for lung disease. We look forward to a fruitful collaboration.”
Chupp is a professor of Medicine (Pulmonary) and director of the Yale Center for Asthma and Airways Disease (YCAAD) and director of the Pulmonary Function Laboratory at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Many of Chupp’s most recent publications are related to asthma research.
“We are honored to partner with the Yale team, which is performing cutting edge discovery research in the pulmonary field,” stated Dan Menichella, chief executive officer of CureVac. “CureVac’s next-generation mRNA delivery vehicle, the CureVac Carrier Molecule (CVCM) can reach targets in the lung and other organs and is well suited for repeated administration. We look forward to uncovering potential new therapeutic candidates with Yale University to help provide solutions to those with the greatest medical need.”
CureVac has previous deals with Sanofi, Eli Lilly, and Boehringer Ingelheim. In May, CureVac entered into a sponsored research agreement with Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. That research will focus on mRNA-based eye therapies. Under the deal, Schepens Eye researchers will conduct discovery research on eye-related diseases and then turn over candidates to CureVac for preclinical and clinical development. CureVac retains the option to acquire any rights.
So far, CureVac has raised about $420 million in equity investments, including backing from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a significant interest in vaccine development.
In October 2018, CureVac initiated a Phase I dose-escalation trial of its novel mRNA-based rabies vaccine, CV7202. It utilizes the company’s lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery system for mRNA.
In the area of mRNA research, Moderna is probably the best-known company, and in December 2018 raised $604 million with its initial public offering. In August 2018, Pfizer entered a collaboration deal with Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech to develop an mRNA-based flu vaccine. And in February 2019, Sanofi extended a deal with BioNTech to focus on an mRNA-based cancer vaccine. Sanofi had made a deal in July 2018 with Lexington, Massachusetts-based Translate Bio to develop an mRNA vaccine for up to five infectious diseases.