Merck opts to develop, sell cancer vaccine with Moderna

Oct 12 (Reuters) - Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) opted to jointly develop and potentially sell a personalized mRNA vaccine with Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) for a $250 million upfront payment on Wednesday, sending the vaccine maker's shares up over 8%.

Moderna's experimental vaccine is being tested in combination with Merck's blockbuster cancer immunotherapy, Keytruda, in a mid-stage trial to treat patients with melanoma. Data on the vaccine, mRNA-4157, is expected in the fourth quarter of this year.

With the size of the COVID-19 vaccine market expected to contract in subsequent years from the levels seen in 2021, Moderna has been pinning its hopes on its non-COVID vaccines which includes influenza and respiratory syncytial virus shots.

The cancer vaccine is tailored for each patient to generate T-cells, a key part of the body's immune response, based on the specific mutational signature of a tumor.

In 2016, Merck and Moderna entered a strategic partnership to develop a personalized vaccine for treatment of various types of cancer.

Merck in 2020 sold its equity investment in Moderna, benefiting from a surge in the vaccine-maker's stock price that year.

Reporting by Manas Mishra and Khushi Mandowara in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli

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