Moderna places even bigger bet on cancer vaccines, strikes $1.7B Immatics biobucks deal

Moderna is doubling down in cancer vaccines and cell therapies with a new Immatics research partnership that could eventually top $1.7 billion in milestones.

The deal, which features a $120 million upfront payment, will see the two companies work on mRNA-enabled in vivo expressed TCER molecules to create new cancer vaccines, bispecifics and cell therapies, according to a Monday press release.

Both companies will bring existing programs to the table, with Immatics offering its IMA203 PRAME TCR-T for combination with Moderna’s investigational PRAME mRNA cancer vaccine. The companies will each maintain ownership of their respective programs.

Immatics will receive the upfront fee plus research funding and the back-ended, $1.7 billion in development, regulatory and commercial milestones if all goes well. Royalties are being offered for the sales of TCER products and certain vaccines that emerge from the collaboration. The biotech can also join a global profit and loss share arrangement for the most advanced candidate.

Moderna will lead clinical development and commercialization, while Immatics will be responsible for preclinical studies and a potential phase 1 trial for the IMA203 TCR-T and PRAME mRNA vaccine combination.

The deal marks a doubling down for Moderna, which has already made a splash in its post-COVID period with the Merck-partnered cancer vaccine mRNA-4157. Combined with Keytruda, the shot showed significantly reduced risk of recurrence or death in patients with melanoma.  The companies are moving it into lung cancer as well.

Moderna has also branched out into other trendy modalities with its hard-earned COVID cash, including a February deal with Life Edit Therapeutics to work on gene therapies. Another deal with CARsgen Therapeutics saw the famed biotech enter the Claudin18.2 world in August. The two plan to combine a newly disclosed mRNA therapeutic cancer vaccine with a solid-tumor-targeting CAR-T.

Immatics shares ticked up almost 6% in premarket trading Monday morning to $12.89, compared to $12.18 at close Friday.