Moderna's Latest Partnership Combines mRNA with Gene Editing

Moderna_Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Courtesy of Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

As the cliff approaches for COVID-19 vaccine and therapeutic makers, Moderna is busy filling its pipeline with non-pandemic assets. The mRNA vaccine maker forged a collaboration Wednesday with next-gen gene editor Life Edit Therapeutics.

Life Edit’s technology will combine with Moderna’s mRNA platform to develop in vivo gene editing therapeutics against thus far undisclosed "challenging genetic diseases,” according to the announcement.

In an interview with BioSpace, ElevateBio CEO David Hallal said the partners have “buttoned up” the target and research plan.

While he would not disclose specific therapeutic targets, he said the combination of Moderna’s LNP delivery is the “ideal sort of combination” for Life Edit’s base editing for developing in vivo therapeutics targeting the liver.

Moderna will foot the bill for collaborative research and preclinical studies. Any targets chosen will be scooped up by Moderna for further development, manufacturing and commercialization.

Moderna is certainly not short on cash for the collab. The company’s COVID-19 vaccine brought in $18.4 billion last year in sales. Analyst estimates predict those sales could fall by up to 60% in 2023. With Spikevax its only commercialized drug, Moderna is bolstering its pipeline with a slew of other potential assets.

While its Phase III candidate for a mRNA seasonal flu vaccine was found effective against influenza A, it fell short on influenza B. Thanks to the flexibility of mRNA technology, the company is already updating its formulation to improve against this strain and try again with another study.

In addition to vaccines, Moderna is also building out its oncology platform. The Mass.-based biotech is advancing an mRNA cancer vaccine for patients with advanced melanoma in a partnership with Merck. Patients treated with the vaccine plus Keytruda saw a 44% drop in risk of recurrence or death compared to Keytruda treatment alone.

In January, Moderna pumped $35 million upfront into a deal with oncology-focused CytomX, with potential milestone payouts up to $1.2 billion. The partners will develop conditionally activated mRNA cancer therapies.

Moderna’s latest collaborator is a spinout from AgBiome Delta. ElevateBio scooped up Life Edit in 2021 to bolster its gene editing capabilities.

ElevateBio took the tiny company and built it into to a 70-player team to help power the gene therapy industry. Life Edit’s extensive library of novel RNA-guided nucleases grants “unprecedented access to the genome to target diseases,” Hallal said.

Life Edit scored an undisclosed upfront payment from Moderna, with potential for further milestone payouts. Actual dollar amounts were kept mum by the duo. 

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