Personalized Cancer Vaccines On The Horizon For Merck, Along With Big, Big Profits

Merck To Launch Partnership With Biotech Giant Moderna To Develop Personalized Messenger-RNA Anti-Cancer Vaccines

One thing they didn’t foresee in all those hopeful, idealistic classic science fiction books was that when the future comes, it will come first for the very very rich.

To wit, consider the announcement that Merck is going to partner with biotech leader Moderna Therapeutics to develop a commercial application for personalized cancer vaccinations.

And you get one guess as to which tax bracket those “persons” will be from.

The technology, using Moderna’s novel messenger RNA techniques has already generated a hefty sum for biotech leader: $200 million was paid to the company to finance development of proof-of-concept studies and lab expansions.

The collaboration intends to take advantage of Merck’s immuno-oncology background and combine it with with Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology. The companies plan to develop individually-tailored cancer vaccines that will use the patient’s specific neoantigens to encode an immune response that will recognize and destroy cancer cells in that individual.

Not only that, the lucky recipients will be able to take advantage of Moderna’s rapid-cycle-time, small-batch manufacturing technique, which enables the company to supply vaccines tailored to individual patients within weeks.

What’s next, thirty minutes or less or your cancer vaccine is free?

But striking while the iron is hot is what this unholy partnership is all about. That, and money, of course.

“Through this collaboration with Merck, we are now well-positioned to accelerate research and development with a goal of entering the clinic in 2017, as well as to apply our unique GMP manufacturing capabilities to support the rapid production of these highly individualized vaccines,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement that sounds like it could have come from some even more upscale version of Skymall. “Our team has made significant progress since beginning our work in personalized cancer vaccines just last year.”

This isn’t the first time Merck and Moderna have teamed up. In January 2015, the companies announced a $100 million-plus partnership to develop antiviral vaccines and passive immunity therapies, also based on Moderna’s mRNA technology. That agreement saw the companies set to develop five new mRNA-based treatments and vaccines against four viruses, which have yet to be publicly named by the companies.

Indeed, mRNA therapies seem to be the wave of the future. Numerous biotech companies have announced similar programs, seeking to establish a toehold on what could prove to be the way vaccinations are done in the future.

Of course, when you have multibillion-dollar companies like Merck and their new partner Moderna tirelessly slaving away at the problem, one wonders if the profit motive is really the right inspiration for messing with the very stuff of life. Will the decisions these companies make be the right ones for humanity, or the right ones for their stockholders?

The answer lies within the question, methinks.

Suffice to say that news of this kind of science fiction “cure for cancer” should be treated with caution, when its coming from people who stand to make billions or even trillions off of the human desire to live forever.

Merck, Moderna to Develop mRNA-Based Personalized Cancer Vaccines

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