Moderna caps off busy week with $1.2B CytomX collab to better target mRNA therapies

Moderna clearly has no interest in taking a pre-JPM breather. In the week ahead of the conference, the mRNA giant has already announced its first-ever acquisition, organized a CEO interview with Fierce Biotech—and now signed a protein-focused partnership to better target its therapies.

The collaboration will see Moderna hand over $35 million upfront—with up to $1.2 billion to potentially follow in milestones—to use CytomX Therapeutics’ Probody technology. The tech is designed to “enable proteins to be activated locally in diseased tissue, while remaining masked in systemic circulation.” In other words, it could help direct Moderna’s growing array of investigational mRNA therapies for both oncology and beyond to their desired target in the body.

“We are excited to enter this collaboration with CytomX to combine our technologies and to potentially bring mRNA-based conditionally activated therapies to patients,” said Rose Loughlin, Ph.D., Moderna’s senior vice president for research and early development. “Moderna and CytomX have a shared vision of investing at the intersection of biology and technology to transform the lives of patients, and this collaboration will expand applications of our growing therapeutics pipeline.”

The two companies will collaborate on discovery and pre-clinical development, before Moderna takes the lead for human trials and on to market. Moderna will also retain an option to participate in equity financing conducting by CytomX in the future.

For CytomX, the deal marks another welcome show of faith from a Big Pharma after a rocky 2022. The company was forced to slash its staff by 40% back in July due to the failure of breast cancer therapy praluzatamab, the biotech’s only asset at the time. Salvation appeared four months later in the form of a deal with Regeneron worth up to $2 billion in biobucks to develop bispecific cancer therapies.

Investors appeared to see the Moderna announcement in a similarly positive light, sending CytomX’s stock rocketing over 70% to $3.07 a share in premarket trading from a Thursday closing price of $1.79.

For Moderna, the collaboration caps off a busy week that saw the company announce its first acquisition—buying Japanese DNA supplier OriCiro Genomics K.K. for $85 million.