SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, DC 20549
☒ ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2020
☐ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from _ to _
Commission File Number: 001-38753
(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in Its Charter)
|(State or Other Jurisdiction of Incorporation or Organization)||(IRS Employer Identification No.)|
200 Technology Square
|(Address of Principal Executive Offices)||(Zip Code)|
(Registrant’s Telephone Number, Including Area Code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Name of each exchange on which registered|
|Common stock, par value $0.0001 per share||MRNA||The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☑ No ☐
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐ No ☑
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☑ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☑ No ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer”, “smaller reporting company”, and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer ☑
Accelerated filer ☐
Non-accelerated filer ☐
Smaller reporting company ☐
Emerging growth company ☐
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ☐
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐ No ☑
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report. . Yes ☑ No ☐
As of June 30, 2020, the aggregate market value of voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant was approximately $25.25 billion based on the closing sale price on that date of $64.21. Shares of common stock held by each executive officer and director and by each other person who may be deemed to be an affiliate of the Registrant have been excluded from this computation. The determination of affiliate status for this purpose is not necessarily a conclusive determination for other purposes.
As of February 16, 2021, there were 399,769,582 shares of the registrant’s common stock, par value $0.0001 per share, outstanding.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement relating to its 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders to be filed hereafter are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K where indicated.
Table of Contents
|Item 1A.||Risk Factors|
|Item 1B.||Unresolved Staff Comments|
|Item 3.||Legal Proceedings|
|Item 4.||Mine Safety Disclosures|
|Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities|
|Item 7.||Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations|
|Item 7A.||Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk|
|Item 8.||Financial Statements and Supplementary Data|
|Item 9.||Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure|
|Item 9A.||Controls and Procedures|
|Item 9B.||Other Information|
|Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance|
|Item 11.||Executive Compensation|
|Item 12.||Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters|
|Item 13.||Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence|
|Item 14.||Principal Accountant Fees and Services|
|Exhibits, Financial Statement Schedules|
|Item 16.||Form 10-K Summary|
SUMMARY OF THE MATERIAL RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH OUR BUSINESS
Our business is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties that you should be aware of before making an investment decision, including those highlighted in the section entitled “Risk Factors.” These risks include, but are not limited to, the following:
•While we have received Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other provisional, interim or conditional authorizations from regulatory authorities outside the United States for our COVID-19 vaccine, we may encounter difficulties manufacturing. producing shipping or successfully commercializing the vaccine consistent with our existing or potential contractual obligations, including due to delays or difficulties experienced by our commercial partners;
•We are devoting significant resources to the scale-up, manufacturing, development and commercialization of our COVID-19 vaccine, including for use by the U.S. government and other global governmental and commercial partners, and the distribution of our vaccine requires us to comply with additional regulatory requirements, including pharmacovigilance regimes that require us to monitor safety data and to identify, evaluate and potentially respond to adverse reactions to our COVID-19 vaccine;
•The positive interim data from the ongoing clinical studies of our COVID-19 vaccine and the EUA granted by the FDA may not be predictive of the final results of the clinical trials, which is one of a number of factors that may delay or prevent us from receiving full regulatory approval of our vaccine;
•Our current COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273) may prove ineffective at providing protection against infection by variant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and we may be unsuccessful in adapting our COVID-19 vaccine to effectively protect against variant strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus;
•Our mRNA products, development candidates and investigational medicines are based on novel technologies and any development candidates and investigational medicines we develop may be complex and difficult to manufacture. We may encounter difficulties in manufacturing, product release, shelf life, testing, storage, supply chain management, or shipping for any of our medicines, including our COVID-19 vaccine. If we or any of our third-party manufacturers encounter such difficulties, our ability to supply commercial product or material for clinical trials could be delayed or stopped;
•Other companies or organizations may challenge our patent rights or may assert patent rights that prevent us from developing and commercializing our products—including our COVID-19 vaccine—or these rights may be subject to government action, including “march in rights” by the U.S. or foreign governments, which could harm our ability to commercialize our products or fully realize the financial benefits of those products;
•Our business may continue to be adversely affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic;
•mRNA drugs have only been authorized for emergency use, or other provisional, interim or conditional use, for COVID-19, and there is no guarantee that any other mRNA drug will be granted an EUA or will be granted full approval in the future as a result of efforts by others or us. mRNA drug development has substantial clinical development and regulatory risks due to the novel nature of this new class of medicines;
•We have incurred significant losses since our inception and we may incur significant losses again in the future;
•Preclinical development is lengthy and uncertain, especially for a new class of medicines such as mRNA, and therefore our preclinical programs or development candidates may be delayed, terminated, or may never advance to the clinic, any of which may have a material adverse impact on our platform or our business;
•Clinical development is lengthy and uncertain, especially with a new class of medicines such as mRNA medicines. Clinical trials of our investigational medicines may be delayed, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic or other pandemics in the future, and certain programs may never advance in the clinic or may be more costly to conduct than we anticipate, any of which could have a material adverse impact on our platform or our business;
•mRNA medicines are a novel approach, and negative perception of the efficacy, safety, or tolerability of any investigational medicines that we develop could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business, advance our investigational medicines, or obtain regulatory approvals;
•If we are not able to obtain, or if there are delays in obtaining, required regulatory approvals, or if other regulatory requirements are introduced, we will not be able to commercialize, or will be delayed in commercializing, investigational medicines we may develop, and our ability to generate revenue will be materially impaired;
•We have in the past entered into, and in the future may enter into, strategic alliances with third parties for the development and commercialization of our products, development candidates and investigational medicines. If these strategic alliances are not successful, our business could be adversely affected;
•We have limited sales, distribution, and marketing experience, and have only recently invested significant financial and management resources to establish these capabilities as a result of our rapid development and commercialization of our COVID-19 vaccine. If we are unable to effectively establish such capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our future products, if approved, our ability to generate revenues may be adversely affected;
•Certain of our customers for our COVID-19 vaccine prepay us for a portion of the product payment for the vaccine doses that they expect to receive from us, and under the terms of certain of our supply agreements, we may be required to refund some or all of those prepayments if a customer reduces its purchase commitment or if we fail to deliver the purchased volume;
•We will need to develop and expand our company, and we may encounter difficulties in managing this development and expansion, which could disrupt our operations;
•Our internal computer systems and physical premises, or those of our strategic collaborators, other contractors, consultants or regulatory agencies with which we share sensitive data or information, may fail or suffer security breaches, which could result in a material disruption of our product development programs and our manufacturing operations;
•The price of our common stock has been volatile and fluctuates substantially, which could result in substantial losses for stockholders; and
•Unfavorable U.S. or global economic conditions could adversely affect our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
You should consider carefully the risks and uncertainties described below, in the section entitled “Risk Factors” and the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our consolidated financial statements and the related notes, before you decide whether to purchase our common stock. The risks described above are not the only risks that we face. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial may also impair our business operations.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K, including the sections entitled “Business,” “Risk Factors,” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” contains express or implied forward-looking statements within the
meaning of the federal securities laws, Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. We intend these forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and are including this statement for purposes of complying with those safe harbor provisions. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report are forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on our management’s belief and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements relate to future events or our future operational or financial performance, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results, performance, or achievements to be materially different from any future results, performance, or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K include, but are not limited to, statements about:
•our activities with respect to our COVID-19 vaccine, and our plans and expectations regarding future generations of our COVID-19 vaccine that we may develop in response to variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, ongoing clinical development, manufacturing and supply, pricing, commercialization, if approved, regulatory matters and third-party and governmental arrangements and potential arrangements;
•the initiation, timing, progress, results, and cost of our research and development programs and our current and future preclinical studies and clinical trials, including statements regarding the timing of initiation and completion of studies or trials and related preparatory work, the period during which the results of the trials will become available, and our research and development programs;
•the ultimate impact of the current coronavirus pandemic, or the COVID-19 pandemic, or any other health epidemic, on our business, manufacturing, clinical trials, research programs, supply chain, regulatory review, healthcare systems or the global economy as a whole;
•risks related to the direct or indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic or any future large-scale adverse health event, such as the scope and duration of the outbreak, government actions and restrictive measures implemented in response, material delays in diagnoses, initiation or continuation of treatment for diseases that may be addressed by our development candidates and investigational medicines, or in patient enrollment in clinical trials, potential clinical trials, regulatory review or supply chain disruptions, and other potential impacts to our business, the effectiveness or timeliness of steps taken by us to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and our ability to execute business continuity plans to address disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic or future large-scale adverse health event;
•our anticipated next steps for our development candidates and investigational medicines that may be slowed down due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including our resources being significantly diverted towards our COVID-19 vaccine efforts, particularly if the federal government seeks to require us to divert such resources;
•our ability to identify research priorities and apply a risk-mitigated strategy to efficiently discover and develop development candidates and investigational medicines, including by applying learnings from one program to our other programs and from one modality to our other modalities;
•our ability and the potential to successfully manufacture our drug substances, delivery vehicles, development candidates, and investigational medicines for preclinical use, for clinical trials and on a larger scale for commercial use, if approved;
•the ability and willingness of our third-party strategic collaborators to continue research and development activities relating to our development candidates and investigational medicines;
•our ability to obtain funding for our operations necessary to complete further development and commercialization of our investigational medicines;
•our ability to obtain and maintain regulatory approval of our investigational medicines;
•our ability to commercialize our products, if approved;
•the pricing and reimbursement of our investigational medicines, if approved;
•the implementation of our business model, and strategic plans for our business, investigational medicines, and technology;
•the scope of protection we are able to establish and maintain for intellectual property rights covering our investigational medicines and technology;
•estimates of our future expenses, revenues, capital requirements, and our needs for additional financing;
•the potential benefits of strategic collaboration agreements, our ability to enter into strategic collaborations or arrangements, and our ability to attract collaborators with development, regulatory, and commercialization expertise;
•future agreements with third parties in connection with the commercialization of our investigational medicines, if approved;
•the size and growth potential of the markets for our investigational medicines, and our ability to serve those markets;
•our financial performance;
•the rate and degree of market acceptance of our investigational medicines;
•regulatory developments in the United States and foreign countries;
•our ability to contract with third-party suppliers and manufacturers and their ability to perform adequately;
•our ability to produce our products or investigational medicines with advantages in turnaround times or manufacturing cost;
•the success of competing therapies that are or may become available;
•our ability to attract and retain key scientific or management personnel;
•the impact of laws and regulations;
•developments relating to our competitors and our industry; and
•other risks and uncertainties, including those listed under the caption “Risk Factors.”
In some cases, forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “may,” “should,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue,” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. The risks set forth above are not exhaustive. Other sections of this report may include additional factors that could adversely affect our business and financial performance. Moreover, we operate in a very competitive and rapidly changing environment. New risk factors emerge from time to time and it is not possible for management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all risk factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements. These statements are only predictions. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors, which are, in some cases, beyond our control and which could materially affect results. Factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, those listed under the section entitled “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. If one or more of these risks or uncertainties occur, or if our underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual events or results may vary significantly from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. No forward-looking statement is a guarantee of future performance.
The forward-looking statements in this Annual Report on Form 10-K represent our views as of the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we have no current intention of doing so except to the extent required by applicable law. You should therefore not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
This Annual Report on Form 10-K includes statistical and other industry and market data that we obtained from industry publications and research, surveys, and studies conducted by third parties. Industry publications and third-party research, surveys, and studies generally indicate that their information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, although they do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information. We have not independently verified the information contained in such sources.
NOTE REGARDING COMPANY REFERENCES
Unless the context otherwise requires, the terms “Moderna,” “the Company,” “we,” “us,” and “our” in this Annual Report on Form 10-K refer to Moderna, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
Item 1. Business
THE mRNA OPPORTUNITY
mRNA, the software of life
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, transfers the information stored in our genes to the cellular machinery that makes all the proteins required for life. Our genes are stored as sequences of DNA which contain the instructions to make specific proteins. DNA serves as a hard drive, safely storing these instructions in the nucleus until they are needed by the cell.
When a cell needs to produce a protein, the instructions to make that protein are copied from the DNA to mRNA, which serves as the template for protein production. Each mRNA molecule contains the instructions to produce a specific protein with a distinct function in the body. mRNA transmits those instructions to cellular machinery, called ribosomes, that make copies of the required protein.
We see mRNA functioning as the “software of life.” Every cell uses mRNA to provide real time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease. This was codified as the central dogma of molecular biology over 50 years ago, and is exemplified in the schematic below.
mRNA is used to make every type of protein, including secreted, membrane, and intracellular proteins, in varying quantities over time, in different locations, and in various combinations. This is shown in the figure below.
Since our founding in 2010, we have been inspired by the belief that mRNA could be used to create a new class of medicines, with significant potential to improve the lives of patients. In 2020, mRNA technology emerged as a new class of medicine, with the potential to help treat the ongoing global pandemic. In the span of just over 11 months, we designed a vaccine against COVID-19 (mRNA-1273) using mRNA-based technology, conducted Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials, which demonstrated that the vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19, and obtained an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the vaccine from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on December 18, 2020, followed a few days later by an Interim Order from Health Canada authorizing the distribution of the vaccine in Canada. By December 31, 2020, we had delivered nearly 17 million doses of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to the U.S. government, and several hundred thousand doses to the Canadian government to help fight the pandemic. As of December 31, 2020, we had committed orders for approximately 520 million doses of the vaccine to be delivered in 2021 to governments around the world.
The success we experienced in 2020 builds on over 40 years of progress in the biotechnology industry. Our approach fundamentally differs from traditional approaches to medicine. Rather than introduce a protein or chemical to the body, we send tailored mRNA into cells to instruct them to produce specific proteins. We built Moderna on the guiding premise that if mRNA can be used as a medicine for one disease, it could work for many diseases. Instead of starting from scratch for each new vaccine or therapy, our mRNA approach leverages the technology and fundamental components that we have been researching and developing since our founding. By building off our prior research and learning, we believe we can improve how we discover, develop, and manufacture medicines.
Our success in developing the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine further underpins our belief that mRNA-based medicines have the potential to help patients in ways that could equal or exceed the impact of traditional approaches to medicine.
Our strategic priorities
Our first priority for 2021 is to maximize the impact of our COVID-19 vaccine, both in terms of access and value creation of this product between now and the end of 2021. We are closely monitoring emerging variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus as it continues to evolve and testing the performance of our vaccine against them. We are also studying potential booster shots, either of the existing vaccine or of a version that has been adjusted to address significant variants, as well as conducting further clinical trials in younger populations, with the hope of being able to provide the vaccine to adolescents aged 12 to 18 by fall 2021. Executing on this first priority will allow us to pursue our second priority, to accelerate vaccine development to advance our pipeline and bring new vaccines to market. In turn, this will make way for our third priority, to generate human proof-of-concept data in autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, oncology and rare diseases. And this will allow for our fourth priority, to continue to expand the use of mRNA technology to maximize the potential impact we can have on patients. We continue to believe that over time we will have a number of commercial products within our different modalities, which are described in more detail below.
In January 2021, we announced the expansion of our pipeline of prophylactic vaccines with three new development programs: mRNA vaccine candidates against seasonal flu, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the Nipah virus. We also announced our intent to expand our respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine program into older adults. We currently have 24 mRNA development programs in our portfolio, with 13 having entered the clinic.
As of February 15, 2021, we had received additional regulatory authorizations for use of our COVID-19 vaccine in Europe, the United Kingdom, Israel, Switzerland, Singapore and Qatar. We continue forging ahead with the rolling reviews of our COVID-19 vaccine that have already been initiated with several regulatory agencies across the globe and the WHO, which is important for obtaining regulatory authorization to distribute the vaccine in many middle- and low-income countries.
The early investment we made in our manufacturing and digital capabilities prepared us to rapidly scale our production. At present, we believe we will be able to produce between 700 million and 1 billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. We are continuing to invest and add staff to make this production possible. We are also working on increasing our potential supply to up to 1.4 billion doses for 2022. Much of the production for the supply of the U.S. market will be completed at our Moderna Technology Center facility, or MTC South, in Norwood, Massachusetts, with additional production by Lonza Ltd. for the U.S. market. We have also partnered with Lonza to complete all production in Switzerland of our COVID-19 vaccine (generally referred to as COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna outside the U.S.) for markets other than the U.S. Fill-finish services for our COVID-19 vaccine are provided by Catalent Inc. in the U.S., and by ROVI and Recipharm outside the U.S. We have also partnered with other contract manufacturing organizations for the production of and fill-finish services for our COVID-19 vaccine, and expect that we will enter into additional collaborations as we scale production.
The structure of mRNA
Messenger RNA is a linear polymer comprising four monomers called nucleotides: adenosine (A), guanosine (G), cytosine (C), and uridine (U). Within the region of the molecule that codes for a protein, or the coding region, the sequence of these four nucleotides forms a language made up of three-letter words called codons. The first codon, or start codon (AUG), signals where the ribosome
should start protein synthesis. To know what protein to make, the ribosome then progresses along the mRNA one codon at a time, appending the appropriate amino acid to the growing protein. To end protein synthesis, three different codons (UAA, UAG, and UGA) serve as stop signals, telling the ribosome where to terminate protein synthesis. In total, there are 64 potential codons, but only 20 amino acids that are used to build proteins; therefore multiple codons can encode for the same amino acid.
The process of protein production is called translation because the ribosome is reading in one language (a sequence of codons) and outputting in another language (a sequence of amino acids). As shown in the figure below, the coding region is analogous to a sentence in English. Much like a start codon, a capitalized word can indicate the start of a sentence. Codons within the coding region resemble groups of letters representing words. The end of the sentence is signaled by a period in English, or a stop codon for mRNA.
The intrinsic advantages of using mRNA as a medicine
mRNA possesses inherent characteristics that we believe provide it with a strong foundation as a new class of medicines. These characteristics include:
1.mRNA is used by every cell to produce all proteins: Cells in the human body use mRNA to make all types of proteins, including secreted, membrane, and intracellular proteins. mRNA is used by cells to vary the quantities of protein produced over time, in different locations, and in various combinations. Given the universal role of mRNA in protein production, we believe that mRNA medicines could have broad applicability across human disease.
2.Making proteins inside one’s own cells mimics human biology: Using a person’s own cells to produce protein therapeutics or vaccine antigens provides certain advantages over existing technologies such as recombinant proteins, which are manufactured using processes that are foreign to the human body. These advantages include the ability to:
•use multiple mRNAs to produce multiple proteins;
•reduce or eliminate immunogenicity;
•create multi-protein complexes;
•produce therapeutic or vaccine proteins locally;
•harness native protein folding and glycosylation; and
•make proteins that are unstable outside the body.
3.mRNA has a simple and flexible chemical structure: Each mRNA molecule comprises four chemically similar nucleotides to encode proteins made from up to 20 chemically different amino acids. To make the full diversity of possible proteins, only simple sequence changes are required in mRNA. A vast number of potential mRNA medicines can be developed, therefore, with only minor changes to the underlying chemical structure of the molecule or manufacturing processes, a significant advantage over small molecule or protein therapeutics.
4.mRNA has classic pharmacologic features: The intrinsic properties of mRNA translate into attractive pharmacologic features, including:
•each mRNA encodes for a specific protein and no other protein;
•each mRNA molecule can produce many copies of a protein in the cell before being degraded;
•increasing mRNA levels in a cell generally leads to increasing protein levels; and
•the effects of mRNA in a cell can be transient and limits risk of irreversible changes to the cell’s DNA.
As a result, mRNA possesses many of the attractive pharmacologic features of most modern medicines, including reproducible activity, predictable potency, and well-behaved dose dependency; and the ability to adjust dosing based on an individual patient’s needs, including stopping or lowering the dose, to seek to ensure safety and tolerability.
mRNA as a new class of medicines
Based on these and other features, we have developed four core beliefs about the value drivers of mRNA as a new class of medicines:
1.mRNA has the potential to create an unprecedented abundance and diversity of medicines. Although only two infectious disease vaccines using mRNA technology have been authorized to date for emergency use, or other provisional, interim or conditional use in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe this success further demonstrates the potential for mRNA medicines to provide patients or healthy individuals with any therapeutic protein or vaccine, including those targeting intracellular and membrane proteins. This breadth of applicability has the potential to create an extraordinary number of new mRNA-based medicines that are currently beyond the reach of recombinant protein technology.
2.Advances in the development of our mRNA medicines can reduce risks across our portfolio. mRNA medicines share fundamental features that can be used to learn quickly across a portfolio. We believe that once safety and proof of protein production has been established in one program, the technology and biology risks of related programs that use similar mRNA technologies, delivery technologies, and manufacturing processes will decrease significantly. We believe that the progress of our COVID-19 vaccine has helped mitigate risk associated with our prophylactic vaccine modality.
3.mRNA technology can accelerate discovery and development. The software-like features of mRNA enable rapid in silico design and the use of automated high-throughput synthesis processes that permit discovery to proceed in parallel rather than sequentially. We believe these mRNA features can also accelerate drug development by allowing the use of shared manufacturing processes and infrastructure.
4.The ability to leverage shared processes and infrastructure can drive significant capital efficiency over time. We believe the manufacturing requirements of different mRNA medicines are dramatically more similar than traditional recombinant protein-based drugs across a similarly diverse pipeline. When manufacturing at commercial scale, we believe a portfolio of mRNA medicines will benefit from shared capital expenditures, resulting in lower program-specific capital needs and an advantageous variable cost profile.
We believe that the development of mRNA as a new class of medicines, as evidenced by the development of mRNA-based vaccines during 2020, represents a significant breakthrough for patients and our industry.
OUR STRATEGIC PRINCIPLES AND APPROACH TO MANAGING RISK
Our strategy is designed to deliver on the full scope of the mRNA opportunity over the long-term. Reaching patients with mRNA medicines requires us to make complex choices, including: how much capital we devote to technology creation, drug discovery, drug development, commercial and global marketing and infrastructure; which programs we advance and how; whether we advance programs alone or with strategic collaborators; and which capabilities we build internally versus outsource.
To navigate these choices, we established five strategic principles that guide our approach to creating long-term value for patients and investors. No single strategic principle dominates our choices. Embedded in every decision we make is also our assessment of the most important risks inherent in our business. We believe these risks fall into four categories: technology, biology, execution, and financing.
To increase our chances of success, we often find it necessary to balance our near-to-mid-term risks against the strategic principles that guide our approach to long-term value creation.
Our strategic principles
1.We seek to discover and develop a large pipeline in parallel.
Our goal is to address or prevent as many human diseases as our technology, talent, capital, and other resources permit. We do so as rapidly as we can, understanding both the urgency for patients and the need to be disciplined in our approach. We have a diverse pipeline of 24 development programs, with 13 of them having entered the clinic, many of which have the potential to be
first-in-class or best-in-class medicines. We have one commercial product, our COVID-19 vaccine, that is being distributed globally.
2.We undertake sustained, long-term investment in technology creation. We aim to improve the performance of mRNA medicines in our current modalities, and to unlock new modalities, through investments within basic and applied science. We are committed to remaining at the forefront of mRNA science.
3.We focus on the pace and scale of our learning. We believe that time is a critical resource. We seek to accelerate our progress by solving numerous technical problems in parallel rather than in sequence. Our scientists pursue experiments based on how much we can learn from the results, not just the probability of a positive outcome. We believe negative information is valuable and we can learn from our setbacks. We make significant investments in digital assets and research infrastructure to accelerate the pace and scale of our learning.
4.We integrate across the most critical parts of our value chain. mRNA is a complex multicomponent system and we believe it demands integration. We believe that we must be directly engaged in research, drug discovery, drug development, process and analytical development, and manufacturing to accelerate our learning, reduce our risk, and protect our critical know-how. Where appropriate, we seek out strategic collaborators that can augment our capabilities or expand our capacity in specific therapeutic areas, while being careful to resist the fragmentation of our core technology.
5.We forward invest in core enabling capabilities and infrastructure. To execute across a broad pipeline, we need to invest at risk before we have all the answers. Our forward investments focus on areas where lead times are long and where early investments can reduce execution risk and accelerate future progress. We proactively invested in a dedicated manufacturing facility, Moderna Technology Center (MTC), in Norwood, MA, to support the anticipated growth of our pipeline, and this early investment greatly facilitated our ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by allowing us to begin production of our vaccine even before we received regulatory authorization for its distribution.
Our approach to managing risk
In conjunction with the strategic principles that guide our approach to long-term value creation, we actively manage the risks inherent in our business. At present, these categories of risk include: technology, biology, execution, and financing. We summarize our approach to managing these risks below:
1.Technology risk encompasses the challenges of developing the product features of mRNA medicines, including delivery, controlling interactions with the immune system, optimizing therapeutic index, and manufacturing. We believe the best way to mitigate technology risk is to sustain long-term investments in our platform. In addition, we diversify our technology risk by compartmentalizing our pipeline into groups of programs with shared product features, which we call modalities. Lastly, we stage program development within a modality, leveraging the first program, whether successful or not, to generate insights that accelerate and reduce the risk of subsequent programs within the modality.
2.Biology risk entails the risk unique to each program based on its mechanism of action and of clinical development in the target patient population. We believe the best way to manage biology risk is to diversify it by pursuing multiple programs in parallel. In addition, within a modality we seek to initially pursue programs with well-understood biology. Lastly, we may seek strategic collaborators to share risk and upside in disease areas with high inherent biology risk, such as cancer and heart disease.
3.Execution risk refers to the challenge of executing against the scale of our mission. We solve for this risk by seeking to hire the right people, the best talent in the industry. We seek to foster a culture of execution with a focus on quick review cycles and high velocity decision-making. We make forward investments in infrastructure, including manufacturing. Lastly, we have created a digital backbone to track all aspects of our programs and anticipate challenges before they arise.
4.Financing risk refers to our ability to access the capital required to fund the current breadth of our endeavor, as well as new opportunities. We manage this risk by attempting to maintain a strong balance sheet with several years of cash runway. As of December 31, 2020, we had cash, cash equivalents, and investments of $5.25 billion. This balance represents a significant increase in our liquidity over the prior year, driven primarily by customer deposits for the sale of our COVID-19 vaccine, as well as two equity offerings during the first half of the year (in February and May).
There is no single strategic principle nor single category of risk that dominates our decision-making, and universal rules do not exist across our portfolio. Our trade-offs generally involve balancing near-term risks and long-term value creation. Because development cycles are long, our choices are complex. We expect the weighting and types of risk we face will evolve as our business matures. We
believe that disciplined capital allocation across near- and long-term choices must be a core competency if we are to maximize the opportunity for patient impact and shareholder value creation.
Our success in developing a highly effective vaccine against COVID-19, going from sequence selection, conducting clinical trials and to receipt of regulatory authorization for emergency use, all in less than a year, provides a visible example of the promise of mRNA-based medicine. Our COVID-19 vaccine is currently authorized or conditionally approved in over 30 countries, and has already been used to vaccinate millions of patients to help combat the pandemic. We believe our success in developing this vaccine has positive implications beyond infectious disease vaccines and across our six modalities. We currently have 24 programs in development, and our pipeline spans five therapeutic areas: infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, rare diseases, cardiovascular diseases and autoimmune diseases. We remain on track to produce between 700 million and 1 billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.
Overview of our platform
Our “platform” refers to our accumulated knowledge and capabilities in basic and applied sciences across mRNA, the delivery of mRNA to target tissues, and the manufacturing processes for making potential mRNA medicines. We invest in basic science to discover foundational mechanistic insights, and we invest in applied sciences to invent technology that harnesses those insights. We use our platform to identify and develop new mRNA medicines. When we identify a combination of platform technologies or programs across mRNA technologies, delivery technologies, and manufacturing processes that can enable shared product features across multiple potential mRNA medicines, we group those programs as a modality. The primary goal of our platform is to identify new modalities and to expand the utility of our existing modalities. We are committed to advancing the technological frontier of mRNA medicines over the long term.
We define success in our platform as achieving the following pharmacologic properties:
•predictable dose response;
•reproducible pharmacology, including upon repeat dosing;
•therapeutic potency, through achieving the intended pharmacologic activity in the target tissue;
•safety and tolerability; and
•scalability for development.
Achieving any of these pharmacologic properties requires many, often interdependent, technological solutions. We organize our efforts into three core scientific areas: mRNA, delivery, and manufacturing process as shown in the figure below:
We pursue mRNA science to minimize undesirable activation of the immune system by mRNA, to maximize the mRNA potency of mRNA once inside target cells, and to extend pharmacology of our therapeutics. We pursue delivery science to protect mRNA from extracellular enzymes that would degrade it, to avoid counterproductive interactions of our delivery vehicles with the immune system, deliver mRNA to desired tissues, and facilitate mRNA transport across cell membranes to the translational machinery within cells. Finally, we have learned that the methods for producing mRNA and lipid nanoparticle, or LNP, delivery systems can have profound positive and negative effects on pharmacology. We pursue process science to optimize these features for our future medicines and to develop technical capabilities to scale our potential mRNA medicines for clinical development.
We have incurred significant expense to advance our platform technology and our intellectual property. This investment has underpinned the creation of all six of our existing modalities and helped us to establish fundamental intellectual property. We intend to sustain our investment in our platform in the future because we believe we can establish new modalities and continue to make meaningful improvements in the performance of our current modalities.
Our COVID-19 vaccine demonstrates the success of our current platform. Our current pipeline, which consists of 24 programs, depends on hundreds of small advances and 10 years of research and investment in our three core scientific areas. Examples of many
critical advances that we have made are described below. These advances demonstrate our significant progress to date, and exemplify our approach to tackling hundreds of smaller scientific problems and organizing them into technological solutions.
Our platform: mRNA science
An overview of mRNA biology
Messenger RNA is a linear polymer comprised of four monomers called nucleotides: adenosine (A), guanosine (G), cytosine (C), and uridine (U). Within the region of the mRNA molecule that serves as instructions for protein synthesis, the coding region, the exact sequence of these four nucleotides forms a language made up of three-letter words called codons. One codon, the start codon (AUG), serves to signal where the ribosome should start protein synthesis. To know what protein to make, the ribosome then progresses along the mRNA one codon at a time, appending the appropriate amino acid to the growing protein chain. Because the ribosome is reading in one language (a sequence of codons) and outputting in another language (a sequence of amino acids), this process is called translation. Finally, three different codons (UAA, UAG, and UGA) can serve as stop signals, telling the ribosome where to terminate protein synthesis. The production of proteins from mRNA sequences is called translation and is used to make all human proteins. The production of mRNA from DNA is called transcription.
As shown in the figure below, the coding region in an mRNA molecule is analogous to a sentence in English. The start codon indicates the start of the protein, much like a capitalized word can indicate the start of a sentence. Codons within the coding region resemble groups of letters representing words. The end of the sentence is signaled by a period in English, or a stop codon for mRNA.
In every cell, hundreds of thousands of mRNAs make hundreds of millions of proteins every day. A typical protein contains 200-600 amino acids; therefore a typical mRNA coding region ranges from 600-1,800 nucleotides.
In addition to the coding region, mRNAs contain four other key features: (1) the 5’ untranslated region or 5’-UTR; (2) the 3’ untranslated region or 3’-UTR; (3) the 5’ cap; and (4) a 3’ polyadenosine, or poly-A, tail. The sequence of nucleotides in the 5’-UTR influences how efficiently the ribosome initiates protein synthesis, whereas the sequence of nucleotides in the 3’-UTR contains information about which cell types should translate that mRNA and how long the mRNA should last. The 5’ cap and 3’ poly-A tail enhance ribosome engagement and protect the mRNA from attack by intracellular enzymes that digest mRNA from its ends. As a result of this biology, mRNA has several key features. First, mRNA is exquisitely specific. There is a one-to-one correspondence between an mRNA molecule and the protein dictated by the coding sequence. Second, the biological effects of mRNA are amplified. Because each mRNA copy can be translated thousands of times, we believe that in some cases, a small number of mRNA copies per cell may be sufficient to induce a pharmacologic effect. Finally, mRNA is impermanent. mRNAs produce proteins for a defined and biologically-regulated period of time without risk of changing genes or cell DNA. If dosing of mRNA stops, protein production will stop and the biological effects generally can be reversed.
We continue to invest in both applied and basic research, seeking to advance both the state of our technology and the state of the scientific community’s understanding of mRNA. Examples of advances in mRNA science that combine nucleotide chemistry, sequence engineering, and targeting elements are described below.
mRNA chemistry: Modified nucleotides to mitigate immune system activation
The innate immune system has evolved to protect cells from foreign RNA, such as viral RNA, by inducing inflammation and suppressing mRNA translation once detected. Many cells surveil their environment through sensors called toll-like-receptors, or TLRs. These include types that are activated by the presence of double-stranded RNA (TLR3) or uridine containing RNA fragments (TLR7, TLR8). Additionally, all cells have cytosolic double-stranded RNA, sensors, including retinoic acid inducible gene-I, or RIG-I that are sensitive to foreign RNA inside the cell.
The immune and cellular response to mRNA is complex, context specific, and often linked to the sensing of uridine. To minimize undesired immune responses to our potential mRNA medicines, our platform employs chemically-modified uridine nucleotides to minimize recognition by both immune cell sensors such as TLR3/7/8, and broadly-distributed cytosolic receptors such as RIG-I. mRNA produced using our synthesis technologies and containing unmodified uridine results in significant upregulation of secreted cytokines such as IP-10, which is indicative of local immune cell activation. Administration of monocyte-derived macrophages, or MDMs, with unmodified mRNA formulated in LNPs results in an increased ratio of IP-10 transcripts relative to a housekeeping gene. By substituting unmodified uridine with a modified uridine, we can substantially reduce immune cell activation in this assay. The control contains only transfection agent and no mRNA. In multiple preclinical experiments we have demonstrated reduced immune cell activation, including of B cells, lower immunoglobulin secretion, and lower cytokine expression when administering mRNA made with modified uridine versus unmodified uridine. To date, when deploying these technologies, we have yet to observe dose-limiting toxicity attributable to the mRNA encoding proteins from our drug substance even at the exaggerated doses in IND-enabling GLP toxicology programs. Importantly, in preclinical testing, our chemically-modified uridine has not significantly affected the ribosome’s ability to read and translate the mRNA sequence.
Nucleotide chemistry of mRNA reduces immune activation in vitro (in monocyte-derived macrophages)
mRNA sequence engineering: Maximizing protein expression
mRNA exists transiently in the cytoplasm, during which time it can be translated into thousands of proteins before eventually being degraded. Our platform applies bioinformatic, biochemical, and biological screening capabilities, most of which have been invented internally that aim to optimize the amount of protein produced per mRNA. We have identified proprietary sequences for the 5’-UTR that have been observed to increase the likelihood that a ribosome bound to the 5’-end of the mRNA transcript will find the desired start codon and reliably initiate translation of the coding region.
We additionally design the nucleotide sequence of the coding region to maximize its successful translation into protein. As previously described, there are often multiple codons that encode for a specific amino acid. The amount of protein produced by an mRNA sequence is known to be partly determined by the codons it uses, with certain codons being more or less common in endogenous mRNAs. We have found that the amount of protein produced is also determined by the secondary structure of mRNA, or the propensity of mRNA to fold on itself, with more structured mRNAs producing more protein. We designed a set of sequences which independently varied codon usage and structure of the mRNA. As shown in the figure below, protein expression in the Alpha mouse liver 12, cell line is highest for sequences containing more commonly occurring codons and also more structured mRNA. Both codon usage and structure have an independent and additive effect on protein expression, shown as mean expression (solid line), as measured by fluorescence of the expressed protein, with 95% confidence interval in gray. The total expression area under the curve, or AUC, and standard error of the mean for AUC are shown for each quadrant, in relative fluorescence units per hour. By optimizing translation initiation and efficiency, we have further increased the average number of full-length desired proteins expressed per molecule mRNA. This permits us to reduce the mRNA doses required to achieve the same therapeutic benefit.
Sequences with more structure and more common codons in mRNA maximize protein expression in vitro
Targeting elements: Enabling tissue-targeted translation
All nucleated cells in the body are capable of translating mRNA, resulting in pharmacologic activity in any cell in which mRNA is delivered and translated. To minimize or prevent potential off-target effects, our platform employs technologies that regulate mRNA translation in select cell types. Cells often contain short RNA sequences, called microRNAs or miRNAs, that bind to mRNA to regulate protein translation at the mRNA level. Different cell types have different concentrations of specific microRNAs, in effect giving cells a microRNA signature. microRNA binding directly to mRNA effectively silences or reduces mRNA translation and promotes mRNA degradation. We design microRNA binding sites into the 3’-UTR of our potential mRNA medicines so that if our mRNA is delivered to cells with such microRNAs, it will be minimally translated and rapidly degraded.
As an example, we have demonstrated by intratumoral administration in an animal model that an mRNA encoding a cytotoxic protein and containing a microRNA binding site can be used to selectively kill cancer cells, while protecting systemic tissues such as liver cells. In a mouse model of cancer (Hep3b subcutaneous xenograft mouse), liver enzyme levels and immunohistochemistry, or IHC, of cleaved caspase-3, indicate production of an apoptosis-inducing protein encoded by mRNA in tumor cells but not healthy liver cells when the mRNA has multiple miR-122 target sites. This is denoted as 3x122ts in the figure below; miR-122 is more prevalent in non-cancerous liver cells, but absent in the cancerous liver cells. We published this work in Nucleic Acid Therapeutics in 2018.
Tissue-targeted translation of mRNA encoding a pro-apoptotic protein
and microRNA binding sites in mouse study
Our platform: Delivery science
We focus on the delivery of our mRNA molecules to specific tissues. Our mRNA can, in specific instances, such as our VEGF therapeutic, be delivered by direct injection to a tissue in a simple saline formulation without lipid nanoparticles, or LNPs, to locally produce small amounts of pharmacologically active protein. However, the blood and interstitial fluids in humans contain significant RNA degrading enzymes that rapidly degrade any extracellular mRNA and prevent broader distribution without LNPs. Additionally, cell membranes tend to act as a significant barrier to entry of large, negatively-charged molecules such as mRNA. We have therefore
invested heavily in delivery science and have developed LNP technologies, as well as alternative nanoparticle approaches to enable delivery of larger quantities of mRNA to target tissues.
LNPs are generally composed of four components: an amino lipid, a phospholipid, cholesterol, and a pegylated-lipid, or PEG-lipid. Each component, as well as the overall composition, or mix of components, contributes to the properties of each LNP system. LNPs containing mRNA injected into the body rapidly bind proteins that can drive uptake of LNPs into cells. Once internalized in endosomes within cells, the LNPs are designed to escape the endosome and release their mRNA cargo into the cell cytoplasm, where the mRNA can be translated to make a protein and have the desired therapeutic effect. Any mRNA and LNP components that do not escape the endosome are typically delivered to lysosomes where they are degraded by the natural process of cellular digestion.
Examples of tools we developed by using our platform include proprietary LNP formulations that address the steps of mRNA delivery, including cell uptake, endosomal escape, and subsequent lipid metabolism, and for avoidance of counterproductive interactions with the immune system. Examples of delivery tools we have developed are described below.
Chemistry: Novel lipid chemistry to potentially improve safety and tolerability
We initially used LNP formulations that were based on known lipid systems, which we refer to as “legacy LNPs.” A recognized limitation of these legacy LNPs is the potential for inflammatory reactions upon single and repeat administration that can impact tolerability and therapeutic index. Our later-developed, proprietary LNP systems are therefore designed to be highly tolerated and minimize any LNP vehicle-related toxicities with repeat administration in vivo. The changes we made have included engineering amino lipids to avoid the immune system and to be rapidly biodegradable relative to prior lipids. Administered intravenously in non-human primates, at 0.2 mg/kg, our proprietary LNPs demonstrate rapid clearance of the lipid from plasma and organs such as peripheral lymphoid organs and the liver.
Rapid clearance of lipid components of LNPs from plasma in non-human primate study
(y-axis in log-scale)
Even in the case of vaccines, where one might hypothesize that LNP-induced immune stimulation could potentially increase the effectiveness of the vaccine, we have demonstrated in preclinical studies that we can maintain the desired immune response to the vaccine while reducing undesired local immune reaction, or reactogenicity, to the LNP. The tolerability of our vaccine formulation has been demonstrated clinically and, to date, millions of individuals worldwide have received our vaccine against COVID-19.
Composition: Proprietary LNPs enhance delivery efficiency
Our platform includes extensive in-house expertise in medicinal chemistry, which we have applied to design large libraries of novel lipids. Using these libraries in combination with our discovery biology capabilities, we have conducted high throughput screens for desired LNP properties and believe that we have made fundamental discoveries in preclinical studies about the relationships between structural motifs of lipids and LNP performance for protein expression. By screening for components and compositions that enhance the amount of mRNA delivered per cell and protein expression, we have demonstrated with intravenous administration up to a six-fold improvement in protein production over the prior state of the art for LNPs as shown in the figure below (n=3 rats, 95% CI shown).
Enhanced protein production with our proprietary LNP in rat study
Surface properties: Novel LNP design to avoid immune recognition
We have designed our proprietary LNP systems for sustained pharmacology upon repeat dosing by eliminating or altering features that activate the immune system. These are based on insights into the surface properties of LNPs. Upon repeated dosing, surface features on traditional LNPs such as amino lipids, phospholipids, and PEG-lipids, can be recognized by the immune system, leading to rapid clearance from the bloodstream, a decrease in potency upon repeat dosing, and an increase in inflammation.
Based on our insights into these mechanisms, we have engineered our LNP systems to reduce or eliminate undesirable surface features. In preclinical studies in non-human primates for our systemic therapeutic development candidates that use our novel LNP systems, we have been able to repeat dose with negligible or undetectable loss in potency, liver damage, and immune system activation.
Our platform: Manufacturing process science
We invest significantly in manufacturing process science to impart more potent features to our mRNA and LNPs, and to invent the technological capabilities necessary to manufacture our potential mRNA medicines at scales ranging from micrograms to kilograms, as well as achieve pharmaceutical properties such as solubility and shelf life. We view developing these goals of manufacturing and pharmaceutical properties as stage appropriate for each program. In some cases, this includes inventing novel analytical technologies that make it possible to connect analytical characterization of mRNA and LNPs to biological performance.
mRNA manufacturing process: Improving pharmacology
Our platform creates mRNA using a cell-free approach called in vitro transcription in which an RNA polymerase enzyme binds to and transcribes a DNA template, adding the nucleotides encoded by the DNA to the growing RNA strand. Following transcription, we employ proprietary purification techniques to ensure that our mRNA is free from undesired synthesis components and impurities that could activate the immune system in an indiscriminate manner. Applying our understanding of the basic science underlying each step in the manufacturing process, we have designed proprietary manufacturing processes to impart desirable pharmacologic features, for example increasing potency in a vaccine. Using a model antigen injected intramuscularly in mice at a 3 microgram (µg) mRNA dose, the figure below shows the significant improvement in CD8 T cell response we have achieved through mRNA manufacturing process science and engineering as evidenced by Process B.
Manufacturing process changes to tune immune response in mouse study
LNP manufacturing process: Improving pharmacology
Our platform technology includes synthetic processes to produce LNPs. Traditionally LNPs are assembled by dissolving the four molecular components, amino lipid, phospholipid, cholesterol, and PEG-lipid, in ethanol and then mixing this with mRNA in an aqueous buffer. The resulting mixture is then purified to isolate LNPs from impurities. Such impurities include molecular components that have not been incorporated into particles, un-encapsulated mRNA that could activate the immune system, and particles outside of the desired size range.
Going beyond optimization of traditional manufacturing processes, we have invested in understanding and measuring the various biochemical and physical interactions during LNP assembly and purification. We have additionally developed state-of-the-art analytical techniques necessary to characterize our LNPs and biological systems to analyze their in vitro and in vivo performance. With these insights, we have identified manufacturing process parameters that drive LNP performance, for example, the potency in a secreted therapeutic setting. These insights have allowed us to make significant improvements in the efficiency of our processing and the potency of our LNPs, as exemplified in the figure below. For example, expression of a secreted protein in our Relaxin program demonstrates an approximate eight-fold increase in AUC and approximate six-fold increase in maximum concentration for manufacturing process Y versus manufacturing process X in rats dosed intravenously with 0.5 mg/kg mRNA.
Manufacturing process changes to enhance relaxin protein production by mRNA in rat study
Our platform progress to date
Since our inception, we have solved numerous interdependent problems related to the pharmacologic features of our potential mRNA medicines. These features are detailed and exemplified below. Please also see the section of this Annual Report on Form 10-K titled “Business—Program Descriptions” for recent clinical results for our investigational medicines, including our COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273), CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647), hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653), antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944), and PCV (mRNA-4157) utilizing Moderna proprietary technology.
Dose-dependent protein expression in the clinic
We have demonstrated in the clinic the ability to generate consistent dose dependent levels of protein (antibody) as well as the ability to safely repeat dose. Interim data from our Phase 1 study evaluating escalating doses of mRNA-1944 in the 0.6 mg/kg dose with steroid premedication cohort and two doses of 0.3 mg/kg (without steroid premedication) given one week apart demonstrated dose-dependent increases in levels of antibody against chikungunya. Safety and increased CHKV-IgG production in the two-dose regimen shows the platform’s ability for repeat dosing.
Expression of antibody against Chikungunya virus in the Phase 1 study of mRNA-1944
Reproducible pharmacology, including upon repeated dosing
By combining advances in mRNA, delivery, and manufacturing process science, we have demonstrated in preclinical studies sustained and reproducible pharmacology. The figure below shows a recent example in a mouse model that recapitulates metabolic defects in propionic acidemia, or PA. In this rare disease, a defect in one or both of two different subunits (PCCA and PCCB) of the mitochondrial enzyme propionyl-CoA carboxylase results in accumulation of toxic metabolites such as 2-methylcitrate, or 2MC.In mice hypomorphic for the PCCA subunit, monthly intravenous, or IV, administration of mRNAs encoding PCCA and PCCB formulated in our proprietary LNP (mRNA-3927) resulted in a significant and sustained lowering of 2MC throughout the duration of the 6-month study compared to control (luciferase) mRNA (1 mg/kg, n=6/group). We are currently recruiting PA patients for our Phase 1 trial of mRNA-3927. As noted above, we have also seen success in repeat dosing of our antibody against Chikungunya virus.
Plasma 2-methylcitrate levels with repeat dosing of PCCA+PCCB mRNA in PA mouse study
Decreased immune activation upon repeat dosing in non-human primates
We have observed decreased immune activation which enables repeat dosing in non-human primates, as shown in the figure below. The data below indicates serum concentration of human erythropoietin, or hEPO, with repeat dosing of mRNA encoding hEPO in our proprietary LNPs with weekly IV administration at 0.2 mg/kg in non-human primates.
Repeat dosing with mRNA encoding for hEPO in our proprietary LNP in non-human primate study
We believe that by combining proprietary mRNA technologies, delivery technologies, and manufacturing process technologies we have significantly advanced the potential therapeutic index of our potential mRNA-based therapeutics.
Pharmacologic activity in the target tissue and cell
While some of our modalities, such as systemic secreted therapeutics, can leverage many different cell types to make therapeutic proteins, others such as systemic intracellular therapeutics, may require delivery of our mRNA into specific tissues and cell types, for instance hepatocytes in certain liver metabolic diseases. Combining our proprietary mRNA, delivery, and manufacturing process technologies we have observed on-target pharmacologic activity in hepatocytes in non-human primates. The on-target potency of this approach contrasts with traditional delivery technologies. In the figure below, one of our proprietary LNPs with increased hepatocyte transfecting properties result in protein expression in liver hepatocytes in non-human primates as demonstrated with a reporter protein detected by immunohistochemistry at 6 hours after IV infusion at 2 mg/kg.
Protein expression in hepatocytes with a proprietary LNP in non-human primate study
Additionally, this LNP results in extended expression of a secreted reporter protein in non-human primates as compared to one of our other proprietary LNPs after IV delivery at 0.1mg/kg.
Our platform’s future: Improving and expanding our modalities
We are committed to sustaining investment in our platform, both in basic science to elucidate new mechanistic insights, and in applied science to discover new technologies that harness these insights. Our platform investments have enabled six modalities to date, most of which have already led to multiple development candidates and investigational medicines in our pipeline. We believe that sustaining our investment in platform research and development will enable further improvements in the current modalities and will lead to the creation of new modalities, both of which will benefit our clinical pipeline in the years ahead.
CREATING MODALITIES WITH SHARED PRODUCT FEATURES
Our approach to developing modalities
Within our platform, we develop technologies that enable the development of mRNA medicines for diverse applications. When we identify technologies that we believe could enable a new group of potential mRNA medicines with shared product features, we call that group a “modality.” While the programs within a modality may target diverse diseases, they share similar mRNA technologies, delivery technologies, and manufacturing processes to achieve shared product features. The programs within a modality will also generally share similar pharmacology profiles, including the desired dose response, the expected dosing regimen, the target tissue for protein expression, safety and tolerability goals, as well as pharmaceutical properties. Programs within a modality often have correlated technology risk, but because they pursue diverse diseases, they often have uncorrelated biology risk. We have created six modalities to date:
•localized regenerative therapeutics;
•systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics; and
•systemic intracellular therapeutics.
When entering into a new modality, our approach is consistent with our strategic principles and perspectives on risk management discussed previously. The tenets of our approach are summarized below.
•We identify a first program (or programs) through which we seek to discover and develop solutions for any modality-specific technological challenges. We then leverage the learnings from this first program to the benefit of all subsequent programs in the modality.
•We seek to diversify biology risks within the modality by advancing multiple programs in parallel, against multiple diseases, following the first program.
•When we believe a strategic collaborator could significantly de-risk our early efforts in a new modality, we often seek a strategic collaborator to share the risks and benefits on a specific set of early programs.
•After experience with the first program (or programs) in a modality, we seek to rapidly expand our pipeline within that modality to take full advantage of the opportunity.
Illustrating our approach: From our first modality to today
We started with prophylactic vaccines as our first modality because we believed this modality faced lower technical hurdles, relative to other areas. Our early formulations of mRNA tended to stimulate the immune system, which would present a challenge to therapeutics but was a desired feature for vaccines. In addition, many potential prophylactic vaccine antigens are well-characterized, allowing us to reduce biology risk. Lastly, the dosing regimens for vaccines require as few as one or two administrations, and generally involve relatively low doses.
For our first programs in this modality we chose our H10N8 and H7N9 pandemic influenza vaccines, each requiring expression of a single membrane protein.
We chose to pursue two programs in separate, but parallel, clinical trials to establish the flexibility of our platform.
When both programs met our goals for safety, tolerability, and pharmacology, we accelerated and expanded our vaccine pipeline to include multiple commercially meaningful and increasingly complex vaccines. These included a combination vaccine, designed to protect against two unrelated respiratory viruses, human metapneumovirus, or hMPV, and human parainfluenza 3, or PIV3, and a vaccine that combines six different mRNAs, our cytomegalovirus, or CMV, vaccine, to express a complex pentameric antigen. We also sought strategic alliances with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority (BARDA) and Merck & Co. (Merck), to allow us to rapidly expand our pipeline and complement our capabilities with their expertise. This early work in the prophylactic vaccines modality led to the ability to introduce our COVID-19 vaccine during 2020 in response to the ongoing pandemic.
Over time, we have taken on more challenging applications and technological hurdles with each successive modality, but we have also tried to build upon our prior experiences to manage risk. For example, in our cancer vaccines modality, we are now applying our technology to elicit T cell responses to potentially recognize and eradicate cancer as a logical extension of our prophylactic vaccines modality. Having demonstrated local expression of protein in our vaccines, we expanded into local therapeutic applications. For example, in our intra-tumoral immuno-oncology modality, we are seeking to use local expression to drive anti-cancer T cell responses by transforming tumor microenvironments. We can also use local expression to drive regenerative processes as in our Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A, or VEGF-A program. Most recently, we have expanded into two new modalities that use systemic delivery of mRNA to encode secreted and cell surface or intracellular proteins. We have moved multiple programs in these areas into development for the treatment of diseases as varied as rare genetic disorders, preventing viral infections, or treating heart failure.
Expanding within our designated core modalities
In 2020 we designated the prophylactic vaccines and systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics modalities as “core modalities” following positive Phase 1 data from our CMV vaccine and chikungunya antibody program, respectively. We believed that this data reduced the risk of these modalities, and our strategy is to invest in additional development candidates within these modalities.
Since January 2020, we have nominated six new development candidates within our prophylactic vaccines modality, including our COVID-19 vaccine (which is now authorized for emergency use or conditionally approved in over 30 countries), as well as vaccine
candidates for seasonal flu, HIV, Nipah virus, and EBV. We also regained rights to develop an RSV vaccine for adults, following the conclusion of our collaboration with Merck in October 2020, which consolidated our global commercial rights to all development candidates within our prophylactic vaccines modality.
Within our systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics modality, we announced two new development candidates in 2020: Interleukin-2, or IL-2, and programmed death-ligand-1, or PD-L1. In 2021, we also announced that we have regained the rights to our Relaxin program from AstraZeneca, and we are currently evaluating how to proceed with the program. Our exploratory modalities continue to be a critical part of advancing our strategy to maximize the application of our potential mRNA medicines.
How modalities continue to build our pipeline
We believe our portfolio of modalities—each with distinct technological and biological risk profiles—allows us to maximize long-term value for patients and investors. We see our six current modalities as six distinct multi-product pipelines that represent different risk profiles and benefit from common infrastructure and a shared platform technology. We believe the high technology correlation within a modality allows us to rapidly accelerate the expansion of the pipeline in that modality based on learnings from the initial programs. We believe the lower technology correlation between modalities allows us to compartmentalize the technology risks.
We believe our ongoing investments in our platform will lead to the identification of additional new modalities in the future, and will expand the diversity of our pipeline.
Since we nominated our first program in late 2014, we and our strategic collaborators have advanced in parallel a diverse development pipeline which currently consists of 27 development candidates across our 24 programs, with 13 having entered the clinic and an additional development candidate subject to an open investigational new drug application (IND). Aspects of our pipeline have been supported through strategic alliances, including with AstraZeneca, Merck, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, or Vertex, and government-sponsored organizations and private foundations focused on global health initiatives, including BARDA, DARPA, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Our selection process for advancing new development candidates reflects both program-specific considerations as well as portfolio-wide considerations. Program-specific criteria include, among other relevant factors, the severity of the unmet medical need, the biology risk of our chosen target or disease, the feasibility of clinical development, the costs of development, and the commercial opportunity. Portfolio-wide considerations include the ability to demonstrate technical success for our platform components within a modality, thereby increasing the probability of success and learnings for subsequent programs in the modality and in some cases in other modalities.
The breadth of biology addressable using mRNA technology is reflected in our current development pipeline of 24 programs. The diversity of proteins made from mRNA within our development pipeline is shown in the figure below.
The following chart shows our current pipeline of 24 development programs, grouped into modalities—first our two core modalities where we believe we have reduced the technology risk, followed by our four exploratory modalities in which we are continuing to investigate the clinical use of mRNA medicines.
PROPHYLACTIC VACCINES MODALITY
We designed our prophylactic vaccines modality to prevent or control infectious diseases. This modality includes our COVID-19 vaccine, which was first authorized by the U.S. FDA for emergency use in December 2020 for vaccination of adults age 18 and older against SARS-CoV-2. Our prophylactic vaccines modality currently includes ten development candidates in addition to our commercial COVID-19 vaccine, all of which are vaccines against viruses. The goal of any vaccine is to safely pre-expose the immune system to a small quantity of a protein from a pathogen, called an antigen, so that the immune system is prepared to fight the pathogen if exposed in the future, and prevent infection or disease.
Prophylactic vaccines: Opportunity
Vaccines to prevent infectious diseases are one of the great innovations of modern medicine. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that childhood vaccinations given in the past two decades will in total prevent 322 million Americans from falling ill, 21 million hospitalizations, 732,000 deaths, $295 billion of direct costs, and $1.3 trillion in social costs. The commercial opportunity for vaccines is significant; the worldwide vaccine market in 2019 was $35 billion. More innovative vaccines have been able to achieve pricing per regimen generally ranging from 5 to 20 times that of seasonal flu vaccines.
Prophylactic vaccines: Product features
We believe mRNA-based vaccines offer several advantages, including:
•Ability to mimic many aspects of natural viral infections. mRNA enters cells and is used to produce viral antigen proteins from within the cell that include natural, post-translational modifications. This mimics the process by which natural viral infections occur, where information from viral genomes is used to produce viral proteins from within a cell. This can potentially enhance the immune response, including improved B and T cell responses.
•Multiplexing of mRNA for more compelling product profiles. Multiple mRNAs encoding for multiple viral proteins can be included in a single vaccine, either permitting production of complex multimeric antigens that are much more difficult to achieve with traditional technologies, or producing antigens from multiple viruses at once. As an example, our CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647) contains six mRNAs, five of which encode five different proteins that combine to form a pentameric protein complex that is a potentially critical antigen for immune protection against CMV.
•Rapid discovery and advancement of mRNA programs into the clinic. Many viral antigens are known. However, with traditional vaccines, the target pathogens or antigens have to be produced in dedicated cell-cultures and/or fermentation-based manufacturing production processes in order to initiate testing of potential vaccine constructs. Our ability to design our antigens in silico allows us to rapidly produce and test antigens in preclinical models, which can dramatically accelerate our vaccine selection.
•Capital efficiency and speed from shared manufacturing processes and infrastructure. Traditional vaccines require product-dedicated production processes, facilities, and operators. Our mRNA vaccines are produced in a manufacturing process that is sufficiently consistent across our pipeline to allow any one of our facilities the flexibility to produce any of our mRNA vaccines.
Prophylactic vaccines: Vaccines against respiratory viruses
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273)
Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has already been administered in millions of patients and is authorized for use in more than 30 countries
Our COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273) was designed, subject to Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical trials, delivered clinical trial results, and received emergency use and other conditional authorizations in less than a year, and has been and continues to be a key tool in fighting the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The vaccine is referred to as the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine in the U.S. and Canadian markets, and is generally referred to as the COVID-19 Vaccine Moderna in other markets. Forward-looking references to our COVID-19 vaccine in this Annual Report on Form 10-K may include future modifications to mRNA-1273 or other development candidates that are designed to provide protection against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
We worked throughout 2020 to expand our manufacturing capacity and partnered with other companies to supplement that production, and currently anticipate that we will be able to produce between 700 million and 1 billion doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in 2021. Our COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose course, meaning this production will be sufficient to vaccinate between 350 million and 500 million people against COVID-19 at the current 100 microgram (µg) dose. As of December 31, 2020, we had committed orders for approximately 520 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to be delivered in 2021, for total contract consideration of $11.7 billion. We are conducting a Phase 2/3 study of mRNA-1273 in adolescents 12 to 17 years of age. Additional studies are planned to evaluate our COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12 years and immunocompromised populations. We are also conducting a field effectiveness trial in the United States to gather additional data in other populations, including older adults and individuals with co-morbidities that place them at increased risk for the complications of COVID-19.
On February 25, 2021, we announced that the Company is developing a next-generation vaccine against COVID-19, mRNA-1283. This vaccine candidate encodes for the portions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that are critical for neutralization, specifically the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) and N-terminal Domain (NTD). The encoded mRNA-1283 antigen is shorter than mRNA-1273, and is being developed as a potential refrigerator stable mRNA vaccine that we anticipate will facilitate easier distribution and administration by healthcare providers. mRNA-1283 is intended to be evaluated for use as a booster dose for previously vaccinated or infected individuals as well as in a primary series for seronegative individuals.
COVID-19: Disease overview
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, which has led to over 2.4 million global deaths
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in animals or humans. In humans there are several known coronaviruses that cause respiratory infections. These coronaviruses range from the common cold to more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 is the novel coronavirus first identified in humans in December 2019 and is the cause of COVID-19.
COVID-19 is the most severe global pandemic since the influenza pandemic of 1918. As of February 18, 2021, there have been over 110 million confirmed cases and over 2.4 million global deaths from COVID-19. The risk of mortality increases with age (estimated to be ~0.1% for individuals aged 0-19, ~6% for individuals over age 60). Risk of severe disease and mortality increase for persons with pre-existing diseases or comorbid conditions (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, obesity).
As the pandemic has continued variants of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus first detected in Wuhan, China, have continued to evolve. Certain of these variant strains of SARS-CoV-2 have already proven to lead to increased rates of transmission of the virus, and as the virus continues to evolve, future strains or those already in circulation could cause more severe forms of disease. Some variant strains have also demonstrated resistance to existing vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19. Data from the primary efficacy analysis announced November 30, 2020 suggested that mRNA-1273—which was designed based upon the genetic sequence of the virus first detected in Wuhan, China—is 94.1% efficacious against symptomatic COVID-19 disease with a clinically-acceptable safety profile. However, while the neutralization titers are comparable for most variant strains tested, including the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom, there are data to suggest a 6.4-fold reduction in neutralization titers against the B.1.351 strain which was first identified in South Africa. While the titers against B.1.351 remain higher than those found to be protective against viral challenge in animal models, we have nonetheless announced a proactive strategy to address variants of the virus. We are continuing to collaborate with the NIH to study the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the effectiveness of mRNA-1273 against new strains. As one part of this strategy, we are testing additional boosters of mRNA-1273 to further increase protection against emerging strains. Additionally, we are advancing an emerging strain booster, referred to as mRNA-1273.351 (named for the B.1.351 strain) to assess protection against that strain. On February 24, 2021, doses of mRNA-1273.351 were shipped to the NIH for a Phase 1 clinical trial that will be led and funded by NIAID.
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273): Product concept
Our vaccine is an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19 encoding for a prefusion stabilized form of the Spike (S) protein, which was co-developed by Moderna and investigators from NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center.
The Spike protein complex is necessary for membrane fusion and host cell infection and has been the target for the majority of vaccines against COVID-19. Our COVID-19 vaccine encodes a stabilized version of the SARS-CoV-2 full-length spike glycoprotein trimer, S-2P, which has been modified to include two proline substitutions at the top of the central helix in the S2 subunit (S-2P).
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273): Preclinical data
mRNA-1273 led to protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection in the lungs and nose of non-human primates
On July 29, 2020, we announced the publication in The New England Journal of Medicine of data from a preclinical study of mRNA-1273, demonstrating that two doses of mRNA-1273 provided protection against lung inflammation following viral challenge with SARS-CoV-2 in non-human primates at both the 10 µg and 100 µg dose levels. In addition, both the 10 µg and 100 µg dose groups demonstrated protection against viral replication in the lungs, with the 100 µg dose also protecting against viral replication in the nose of the animals. Of note, none of the eight animals in the 100 µg group showed detectable viral replication in the nose compared to six out of eight in the placebo group on day 2.
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273): Clinical data
Phase 1 trial. A Phase 1 open-label study of mRNA-1273 is being conducted by the NIH. This study, which began on March 16, 2020, originally enrolled 45 healthy adult volunteers ages 18 to 55 years and is evaluating three dose cohorts (25 µg, 100 µg and 250 µg). An additional seven cohorts were subsequently added in the Phase 1 study: a 50 µg cohort in adults 18-55 (n=15), three cohorts of older adults (n=30, ages 56-70, 25 µg, 50 µg, and 100 µg) and three cohorts of elderly adults (n=30, ages 71 and above, 25 µg, 50 µg, and 100 µg).
On July 14, 2020, we announced the publication in The New England Journal of Medicine of an interim analysis of data from the original cohorts obtained through Day 57 in the Phase 1 study. This interim analysis demonstrated that mRNA-1273 induced binding antibodies to the full-length SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein (S) in all participants after the first vaccination, with all participants seroconverting by Day 15. Dose dependent increases in binding titers were seen across the three dose levels, and between prime and boost vaccinations within the dose cohorts. After two vaccinations, at Day 57, geometric mean titers exceeded those seen in convalescent sera obtained from 38 individuals with confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. Of the 38 individuals in the convalescent sera group, 15% were classified as having severe symptoms (hospitalization requiring intensive care and/or ventilation), 22% had moderate symptoms and 63% had mild symptoms. Convalescent sera samples were tested using the same assays as the study samples. mRNA-1273 was generally well-tolerated, with no serious adverse events reported through Day 57. Adverse events were generally transient and mild to moderate in severity.
Evaluation of the durability of immune responses is ongoing, and participants will be followed for one year after the second vaccination, with scheduled blood collections throughout that period. On December 2, 2020, a letter to the editor was published in The New England Journal of Medicine reporting that participants in the Phase 1 study of mRNA-1273 retained high levels of neutralizing antibodies through 119 days following first vaccination (90 days following second vaccination). The study was led by NIAID.
Phase 1 older adult cohort. On September 29, 2020, we announced the publication in The New England Journal of Medicine of the second interim analysis of data from 40 healthy adult participants across two dose levels (25 µg and 100 µg) in two age cohorts (ages 56-70 and ages 71+), and reports results through Day 57 (1 month after the second dose). Both the 25 µg and 100 µg dose levels of mRNA-1273 were generally well-tolerated, with no serious adverse events reported through Day 57.
At both the 25 µg and 100 µg dose levels, after two vaccinations, mRNA-1273 induced dose-dependent binding antibody responses reaching the upper quartile of the distribution of convalescent sera. At Day 57 (1 month post-dose 2), geometric mean titers (GMT) exceeded the median of those seen in convalescent sera from 41 individuals with confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.
Phase 3 trial. The Phase 3 COVE trial for mRNA-1273 is a randomized, 1:1 placebo-controlled study testing the vaccine at the 100 µg dose level in 30,000 participants in the U.S., ages 18 and older. The primary endpoint of the COVE study, which is ongoing, is the prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 disease. Key secondary endpoints include prevention of severe COVID-19 disease and prevention of infection by SARS-CoV-2. The Phase 3 COVE study was designed in collaboration with the FDA and NIH to evaluate vaccine efficacy in Americans at risk of severe COVID-19 disease and completed enrollment of more than 30,000 participants ages 18 and older in the U.S. on October 22, 2020, including those at high risk of severe complications of COVID-19 disease. In early September 2020, we announced that we were slowing enrollment in the trial to ensure representation of communities of color in the COVE study. Final enrollment in the study included more than 11,000 participants from communities of color, representing 37% of the study population.
On December 30, 2020, interim safety and primary efficacy results from the Phase 3 trial of mRNA-1273 were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The primary endpoint of the Phase 3 COVE study was based on the analysis of COVID-19 cases confirmed and adjudicated starting two weeks following the second dose of vaccine. This final analysis was based on 196 cases, of which 185 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 11 cases observed in the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine group, corresponding to a 94% vaccine efficacy (95% CI 89.3-96.8%; p<0.0001). This efficacy is highlighted in the chart below. The most common solicited adverse reactions (ARs) after the two-dose series was injection site pain (86.0%). Solicited systemic adverse events occurred more often in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine group (54.9% and 79.4%) than in the placebo (42.2% and 36.5%) group after both the first dose and the second dose respectively and were most commonly headache, fatigue and myalgia. While the majority of these ARs were mild (grade 1) or moderate (grade 2), there was a higher occurrence of severe (grade 3) reactions in the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine group after the first (2.9%) and second (15.8%) injections. The majority of local solicited ARs occurred within the first one to two days after injection and generally persisted for a median of one to two days. Safety data continues to accrue, and the study continues to be monitored by an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) appointed by the NIH. All participants in the COVE study will be monitored for two years after their second dose to assess long-term protection and safety. Additional data to be collected will include longer term safety follow-up, duration of protection against COVID-19, and efficacy against asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection. All placebo recipients in the Phase 2 and Phase 3 trials have been offered our COVID-19 vaccine. As of February 15, 2020, over 80% of placebo recipients have received at least one dose of our COVID-19 vaccine.
We are also conducting a Phase 2/3 study of mRNA-1273 in adolescents 12 to less than 18 years of age and a Phase 2/3 pediatric study in children less than 12 years old is expected to begin in April 2021. Finally, to assess the ability of a third vaccination with mRNA-1273 to further boost antibody titers, participants in the active arms (100 and 50ug) of our Phase 2 adult study will be offered a 50ug booster dose. Additional studies are planned to evaluate mRNA-1273 in special risk groups, such as the immunocompromised.
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273): Regulatory updates
On December 18, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of mRNA-1273, Moderna’s vaccine against COVID-19, in individuals 18 years of age or older. Our COVID-19 vaccine has also been authorized for emergency or conditional use by regulatory authorities in Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Switzerland, Singapore and Qatar. Additional authorizations are currently under review in additional markets and by the World Health Organization (WHO). We expect to submit a biologics license application, or BLA, to the FDA for approval of mRNA-1273, and to submit applications with other regulatory authorities for similar approvals, which will allow for the commercial sale and distribution of the vaccine after the pandemic subsides and conditions are no longer met for emergency or conditional use authorizations.
COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273): Commercial, manufacturing and supply updates
As of December 31, 2020, we have signed supply agreements to deliver approximately 520 million doses of mRNA-1273 in 2021, for total contract consideration of $11.7 billion. We have confirmed the following supply agreements as of that date: United States: 200 million doses, with option for an additional 300 million doses; European Union: 160 million doses; Japan: 50 million doses; Canada: 40 million doses, with option for an additional 16 million doses; South Korea: 40 million doses; United Kingdom: 17 million doses; Switzerland: 7.5 million doses; Israel: 6 million doses. We also signed agreements with Qatar, Singapore, and other countries for which order amounts were not disclosed.
During 2021, and through the date of this Annual Report on Form 10-K, we have agreed to additional supply agreements, or received option exercises, for additional doses as follows: United States: 100 million doses, with an option remaining for 200 million doses; European Union: 150 million doses, with an option remaining for 150 million doses in 2022 (subject to final execution of the Purchase Agreement following the expiration of the opt out period for EU Member States); Canada: 4 million doses; Colombia: 10 million doses; and Taiwan: 5 million doses.
Our base case global production estimate is 700 million to 1 billion doses for 2021. We are continuing to invest and add staff as we meet production at the high end of this range. We are also working on increasing our potential supply to up to 1.4 billion doses for 2022 based upon the current 100 µg dose. Much of the production for the supply of the U.S. market will be completed at our MTC facility in Norwood, Massachusetts, with additional production by Lonza Ltd. for the U.S. market. We have also partnered with Lonza to complete all production of mRNA-1273 for markets other than the U.S. in Switzerland. Fill-finish services for mRNA-1273 are provided by Catalent Inc. in the U.S., and by ROVI and Recipharm outside the U.S.
We believe that the conditions under which mRNA-1273 can be shipped and stored are a key feature of our vaccine as such conditions provide for greater flexibility in distributing the vaccine to markets where special handling may be a barrier to distribution. mRNA-1273 does not require dilution prior to use and remains stable at 2° to 8°C (36° to 46°F), the temperature of a standard home or medical refrigerator, for 30 days. mRNA-1273 remains stable at -20° C (-4°F) for up to six months, at refrigerated conditions for up to 30 days and at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653)
We are developing a combination vaccine to address two viruses that are leading causes of respiratory infection
Human metapneumovirus, or hMPV, and human parainfluenza virus 3, or PIV3, are significant causes of respiratory tract infections in children. Despite the substantial impact hMPV and PIV3 have on human health, attention and research on these viruses have lagged relative to other respiratory infections, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). To date, no vaccine to prevent hMPV or PIV3 infections has been approved. Our platform allows us to combine mRNAs encoding antigens for the two pathogens in one combination vaccine, enabling a single vaccine that could protect against both respiratory infections. In our approach, we utilize mRNA sequences encoding for the membrane fusion (F) glycoproteins, or F proteins, for each of the viruses. We have generated safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity data from the Phase 1 trial for mRNA-1653 in the United States, which has been completed. Based on these data, we have a Phase 1b trial for mRNA-1653 ongoing in the United States in healthy adults and children aged 12-59 months.
hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653): Disease overview
hMPV and PIV3 have a substantial impact on human health yet have lagged in research and attention relative to RSV
There is no approved vaccine for hMPV although this RNA virus has been determined to be one of the more frequent causes of upper and lower respiratory tract infections. hMPV has been detected in 4% to 15% of patients with acute respiratory infections. hMPV causes disease primarily in young children but can also infect adults, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Clinical signs of infection range from a mild upper respiratory tract infection to life-threatening severe bronchiolitis and pneumonia. hMPV was discovered in 2001 and identified as a leading cause of respiratory infection.
There is no approved vaccine for PIV3 although this RNA virus is recognized as an important cause of respiratory tract infections in children. Infections from parainfluenza virus, or PIV, account for up to 7% of acute respiratory infections among children younger than 5 years. Of the four PIV types identified, PIV3 most frequently results in infections and leads to the more serious lower respiratory tract infections compared to the other three PIV types. Though PIV3 related infections were identified in the past, awareness of their burden to patients and hospitals has risen over the past several years.
Awareness of hospitalizations due to hMPV or PIV3 infections have risen, and we believe that a single, combined vaccine intended for active immunization of infants against both hMPV and PIV3 would be valuable. Previous attempts at developing a vaccine have focused on only hMPV or PIV alone with no known attempts at a combination vaccine.
hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653): Our product concept
Our approach is to develop a combination vaccine for all infants
mRNA-1653 is a single investigational vaccine consisting of two distinct mRNA sequences that encode the membrane F proteins of hMPV and PIV3, co-formulated in our proprietary LNP.
hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653): Preclinical information
Our mRNA vaccine is immunogenic and protective in preclinical multiple species
We have evaluated multiple combinations for hMPV/PIV3 mRNA vaccines encoding full-length F proteins for hMPV and PIV3 viruses in mice, Sprague Dawley rats, cotton rats, and African green monkeys, each following intramuscular injection. These studies demonstrate that mRNA encoding for F proteins from these viruses induce robust hMPV and PIV3 neutralizing antibody titers in all species tested. Further, we have demonstrated that our hMPV and PIV3 mRNA combination vaccine does not lead to vaccine-enhanced respiratory disease (evaluated in cotton rats) and is protective against hMPV or PIV3 viral challenge (evaluated in cotton rats and African green monkeys).
hMPV/PIV3 vaccine (mRNA-1653): Clinical data
We have generated safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity data from a Phase 1 trial in the U.S., which has been completed; based on the data, we have a Phase 1b trial in healthy adults and children aged 12-59 months ongoing in the U.S.
A first-in-human dose-ranging study, mRNA-1653-P101, in healthy adults (N = 124) was completed in January 2020. This study evaluated the safety, reactogenicity, and immunogenicity of a range of dose levels (25, 75, 150 or 300 µg) administered on a 1-dose or 2-dose vaccination schedule (approximately 28 days apart) compared with a placebo control in healthy adult subjects (18 through 49 years of age) with a 13 month follow-up period. The mRNA-1653 vaccine was generally well-tolerated at all dose levels. There were no deaths or adverse events of special interest reported during the study. No subject was withdrawn from the study due to an unsolicited adverse event. Injection site pain was the most commonly reported solicited adverse event and the most common grade 3 adverse event. Neutralizing antibodies against hMPV and PIV3 were present at baseline in all subjects, consistent with prior exposure
to both viruses. A single dose of mRNA-1653 boosted serum neutralization titers against hMPV and PIV3, and the magnitude of the boost was similar at all dose levels. The Month 1 to baseline geometric mean ratio (GMR) for the pooled mRNA-1653 treatment groups was approximately 6 for hMPV and 3 for PIV3. A second vaccination did not impact the magnitude of hMPV or PIV3 neutralization titers measured at Month 2. The hMPV neutralizing antibody titers remained above baseline at all dose levels through Month 13, and the PIV3 neutralizing antibody titers remained above baseline at all dose levels through Month 7.
We are conducting a Phase 1b trial to evaluate mRNA-1653 in healthy adults and children aged 12-59 months. The Phase 1b trial is a randomized, observer-blinded, placebo-controlled, dose-ranging trial to evaluate the safety and immunogenicity of two dose levels of mRNA-1653 in healthy adults (18-49 years of age) and three dose levels in children (12-59 months of age) with serologic evidence of prior hMPV and PIV3 exposure. The adult cohort includes 24 adults randomized in the ratio 1:1:1 to receive two doses of 30 μg of mRNA-1653, 150 μg of mRNA-1653, or placebo two months apart. As of January 2021, the adult cohort has been completed and the pediatric portion is ongoing.
RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345)
We are developing an RSV vaccine for children and older adults. We intend to explore a combination vaccine with mRNA-1653, our hMPV/PIV3 vaccine, and/or other respiratory viruses to address a wide array of viral respiratory illness in these populations.
Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is one of the most common causes of respiratory disease in children under the age of five and also in older adults. The RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345) is our first RSV vaccine to enter the clinic with the same proprietary LNP as our COVID-19 vaccine. We previously had two different RSV candidates in partnership with Merck (mRNA-1777 and mRNA-1172) enter the clinic. mRNA-1345 was initially nominated as a pediatric vaccine for RSV. In October 2020, we announced that we regained the rights to adult RSV vaccines from Merck and will be moving mRNA-1345 into the adult population.
RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345): Disease overview
RSV is the leading cause of unaddressed severe lower respiratory tract disease and hospitalization in infants and young children worldwide and causes a substantial burden of illness in older adults
RSV causes upper and lower respiratory tract illness worldwide and is transmitted primarily via aerosolized droplets from an infected person, or via contamination of environmental surfaces with infectious secretions. Upper respiratory symptoms typically begin within several days of exposure. In healthy adults, the infection may remain confined to the upper respiratory tract. However, in those with compromised immune systems, such as premature infants, the elderly, or individuals with underlying respiratory disease, lower respiratory tract infections commonly occur and may manifest as wheezing, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, hospitalization or even death. Infections with RSV follow a seasonal pattern, occurring primarily in the Northern hemisphere between the months of November and April, and in the Southern hemisphere primarily between March and October.
RSV is a common cause of respiratory tract illness in children, with most infected at least once by two years of age. In the United States, it is estimated that over two million children younger than five years of age receive medical attention and more than 86,000 are hospitalized due to RSV infection annually. Globally, it is estimated that RSV is responsible for over approximately 33 million episodes of acute lower-respiratory tract infection, 3.2 million hospitalizations and as many as 118,000 deaths per year in children younger than five years of age. RSV also causes a substantial burden of respiratory illness in older adults. RSV infection causes an estimated 177,00 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths per year in adults aged >65 years in the United States. To date, no effective vaccine to prevent RSV has been approved, and the only approved prophylactic treatment is the monoclonal antibody (mAb) palivizumab, marketed as SYNAGIS in the United States for the prevention of serious lower respiratory disease caused by RSV in pediatric patients at high risk for RSV infection
RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345): Product concept
Prevent RSV disease in young children and older adults with an improved RSV antigen and our proprietary LNP formulation
mRNA-1345 encodes an engineered form of the RSV F proteins stabilized in the prefusion conformation and is formulated in our proprietary LNP. The F protein is present as a homotrimer on the surface of RSV. The prefusion conformation of the F protein interacts with a host cell membrane, and the conformational change from prefusion to postfusion drives virus fusion with a host cell. The majority of RSV-specific neutralizing antibodies in convalescent people are directed to epitopes present only on the prefusion conformation of the F protein. The prefusion state of the F protein elicits a superior neutralizing antibody response compared to the postfusion state in animal studies conducted by others. We believe that neutralizing antibodies elicited by mRNA-1345 may lead to an efficacious RSV vaccine.
RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345): Preclinical information
We have demonstrated that the RSV vaccine mRNA-1345 induces robust RSV neutralizing antibody titers in mice. For example, the left panel below shows the results of a study in which mice were immunized with different dose levels of mRNA-1345 intramuscularly on study days 1 and 21 and RSV neutralizing antibody titers were measured in serum collected on day 33. When compared to the results of a similar mouse study conducted with mRNA from mRNA-1777 formulated in the same proprietary LNP as mRNA-1345, mRNA-1345 was shown to be significantly more immunogenic. We have leveraged our body of non-clinical, clinical and CMC experience from our vaccine portfolio to expedite preclinical development of our RSV mRNA-1345 vaccine.
Serum neutralizing titers in mice for mRNA-1345 and for mRNA-1777 mRNA formulated in our same proprietary LNP
Clinical trials of a formalin-inactivated RSV vaccine conducted in the 1960s resulted in higher rates of severe RSV disease in vaccinated infants than in control infants, a finding referred to as vaccine enhanced respiratory disease (ERD). It is thought that nucleic acid-based vaccines, including mRNA, present a lower risk of ERD because of their biologic similarities with live virus. Given that the RSV vaccine mRNA-1345 is designed to enable intracellular production of prefusion F protein by a person’s own cells, we believe that it likely recapitulates the antigenic presentation and immune cell stimulation as seen with natural infection. Further, the mRNA-1777 RSV vaccine did not predispose for ERD in a cotton rat RSV model (Espeseth et al, npj Vaccines (2020)5:16). To provide further confirmation that the pediatric RSV vaccine mRNA-1345 does not present a risk for ERD, additional preclinical studies will be conducted prior to clinical development of mRNA-1345 in RSV seronegative children or infants.
RSV vaccine (mRNA-1345): Clinical plan
We are conducting a Phase 1 trial for mRNA-1345 in healthy younger adults, healthy older adults and RSV-seropositive children. The Phase 1 trial is a randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled, dose escalation study to evaluate the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of three dose levels of mRNA-1345 in healthy younger adults aged 18 to 49 years and healthy older adults aged 65-79 years and two dose levels in RSV-seropositive children aged 12-59 months. As of January 2021, 3 of the 4 younger adult cohorts are fully enrolled, and we began enrollment for the older adult cohort in February 2021.
Seasonal influenza vaccine (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020 and mRNA-1030)
Three development candidates will be assessed in a phase 1 study planned to start in 2021. Mouse immunization studies have shown strong immune responses against the vaccine antigens.
Seasonal influenza viruses are estimated by the WHO to cause 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness and up to 650,000 deaths each year resulting in a severe challenge to public health. Currently licensed seasonal influenza virus vaccines rarely exceed 60% overall effectiveness and are poorly effective during years when the circulating viruses do not match the strains selected for the vaccine antigens. Particularly in older adults, the population most affected by severe influenza outcomes, vaccine effectiveness remains low. mRNA influenza vaccines could provide several benefits compared to current vaccines, including the ability to more quickly respond to strain changes, avoidance of mutations that may be acquired during vaccine production in eggs or cell culture and stronger immune responses and improved protection in older adults. We are planning to test three development candidates (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020 and mRNA-1030) in a Phase 1 study starting in 2021, which will allow us to identify a candidate to take forward into pivotal efficacy studies. The vaccine will be administered as a single dose and will aim to elicit protection from all seasonal influenza viruses. In the future we also plan to evaluate the combination of a seasonal influenza vaccine with vaccines against other respiratory viruses with similar epidemiology.
Seasonal influenza vaccine (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020 and mRNA-1030): Disease overview
Influenza most substantially impacts young children and older adults, and current vaccines show low effectiveness
Influenza epidemics occur each year and manifest in mild to severe forms. Common symptoms of influenza infection include fever, runny nose, sore throat, muscle pain and coughing. The symptoms onset generally occurs within two days after infection and in uncomplicated cases the disease is self-limiting and resolves within a week. However, influenza virus infection can lead to severe disease, especially in high risk groups (including older adults and individuals with comorbidities), and even death (290,000-650,000 respiratory deaths worldwide annually).
Influenza viruses follow a seasonal circulation pattern with increased cases during the winter months in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, respectively. Since influenza viruses continuously change through a process termed antigenic drift, the circulating viruses are actively monitored by a worldwide monitoring network coordinated by the WHO. Based on the observed circulation patterns and antigenic changes, an expert panel recommends influenza virus strains to be used for vaccine manufacturing twice a year (once for the Northern and once for the Southern hemisphere). Influenza A and influenza B viruses are the most relevant influenza viruses for human infection. Therefore, current recommendations include one influenza A H1N1 strain, one influenza A H3N2 strain and two influenza B strains (covering the B/Victoria and B/Yamagata lineages).
Seasonal influenza vaccine (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020 and mRNA-1030): Product concept
Prevent influenza virus infections by annual vaccination against circulating seasonal influenza viruses
Our investigational products will aim to elicit protective antibodies against circulating seasonal influenza viruses. Three products will be tested in the clinic in 2021 with the goal of selecting one product to move forward into pivotal studies. The final product is expected to be updated twice a year (for the Northern and Southern hemispheres, respectively) based on the recommendations by WHO and will include antigens of the four strains recommended for seasonal vaccines. An mRNA-based influenza vaccine has a number of potential advantages over vaccines produced using traditional manufacturing processes, such as avoiding mutations to proteins acquired by passage during egg- or cell-propagation of viruses, presentation of antigens in their natural conformation, better immunogenicity in older adults and more rapid manufacturing timelines.
Seasonal influenza vaccine (mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020 and mRNA-1030): Preclinical information
Preclinical studies show that strong serum antibody responses against all antigens are elicited after a single administration of the mRNA vaccines in mice, even at low mRNA dose levels.
Prophylactic vaccines: Vaccines requiring complex antigens and against highly prevalent infections
CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647)
Our CMV program targets congenital CMV infections to reduce or prevent birth defects
Congenital cytomegalovirus, or CMV, infection is the leading cause of birth defects in the United States. Despite several attempts, to date there is no vaccine approved to prevent congenital transmission of CMV. We believe that in addition to the glycoprotein B, or gB, protein antigen, a successful CMV vaccine would need to include the Pentamer, a 5-protein membrane-bound antigen complex required for epithelial, endothelial, and myeloid cell infection by the virus. A CMV vaccine containing the Pentamer as a recombinant protein or a replication defective virus is complex to make and scale. We used our platform to generate an mRNA vaccine designed to make the Pentamer in its natural membrane-bound conformation. This investigational medicine is designed to prevent or control CMV infection and includes five mRNAs encoding for the Pentamer, as well as one mRNA encoding for CMV gB that has previously demonstrated partial clinical efficacy. The Phase 1 and 2 trials for mRNA-1647 has generated safety and tolerability data, and demonstrated immunogenicity. Based on recent data from the 3-month interim analysis data from the Phase 2 trial, we have selected a dose and initiated planning for Phase 3 trials for mRNA-1647 in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Israel.
CMV (mRNA-1647): Disease overview
CMV is a major cause of birth defects with no approved vaccine
Human CMV is a common human pathogen and member of the herpes virus family. Seropositivity, demonstrating prior exposure to virus, increases with age and is approximately 40-60% in women of child-bearing potential in the United States. However, general awareness of CMV is not high. Less than 10-20% of adults are aware of CMV and most healthy adults after initial (primary) CMV infection do not have symptoms. However, approximately 0.6-0.7% of newborns are congenitally infected by CMV annually in industrialized countries. Congenital CMV results from infected mothers transmitting the virus to their unborn child and it is the leading cause of birth defects, with approximately 25,000 newborns per year in the United States infected. Birth defects occur in approximately 20% of infected babies and include permanent neurodevelopmental disabilities, which can include hearing loss (often permanent), vision impairment, varying degrees of learning disability, decreased muscle strength and coordination, and even death. Some studies report approximately one-third of infants with severe congenital disease will die within the first year of life, and the survivors, their caregivers, and health systems bear significant long-term burdens.
There is currently no available vaccine for CMV, and many previous attempts at developing a vaccine to reduce or prevent congenital transmission have been missing a key antigen, the Pentamer. We believe the Pentamer is critical for the infection of epithelial, endothelial, and myeloid cells by the virus. We believe the Pentamer was not included in certain prior recombinant protein vaccine attempts due to the complexity of producing it as a multi-unit antigen complex. Prior vaccine studies demonstrated insufficient efficacy against CMV infection and limited durability of immune response. A vaccine that leads to durable immunity in women of child-bearing age would address a critical unmet need in the prevention of congenital CMV infection.
CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647): Our product concept
We are developing a single vaccine with complex antigens to prevent or control infection
Our ability to generate a multi-antigen vaccine enables us to combine a traditional target antigen (gB) with the Pentamer in order to specifically focus the immune system on these important antigens. We believe this gives us greater potential to produce neutralizing antibodies that can block CMV transmission from the mother to the fetus. Our approach to block transmission could either be:
•direct, by vaccinating adolescents or adults of child-bearing potential (female and male); or
•indirect, by vaccinating toddlers who could spread CMV to each other, their mothers, and their childcare workers.
Unlike a protein-based or live-attenuated vaccine, our mRNA instructs cells to specifically make predetermined antigens with a structure that mimics the one presented to the immune system by the virus, thus focusing the immune system on these important antigens.
mRNA-1647 comprises six mRNAs that encode for these known hard-to-make CMV antigens in a proprietary LNP:
•In CMV seropositive individuals, the majority of neutralizing antibodies target the Pentamer. The CMV Pentamer is made by five CMV glycoproteins that form a membrane-bound complex. The Pentamer is required for CMV entry into epithelial, endothelial, and myeloid cells. The mRNA-expressed Pentamer is displayed on the surface of the cell and stimulates the production of neutralizing antibodies that prevent the virus from entering the cells.
•gB is a trimeric CMV membrane glycoprotein that abundantly resides on the surface of the viral particles. Fusion between virus and host cells, and hence infection, requires gB. Antibodies to gB can prevent CMV infection. gB has been utilized in some earlier attempts at a CMV vaccine as the sole antigen which had resulted in partial efficacy but not at levels sufficient for approval.
An illustration of our proposed approach for CMV is shown in the figure below.
CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647): Preclinical information
We have published preclinical data for our CMV vaccine
We have demonstrated that the Pentamer and gB mRNAs can elicit potent and durable antibody titers against the antigens in mice and non-human primates, and have published these results in the journal Vaccine in 2018. In one study, mice were immunized with the Pentamer and gB mRNAs encapsulated in our proprietary LNP. Serum samples were taken from the mice at specific timepoints post-vaccination. Post-vaccination neutralizing titers were measured by admixing serial dilutions of each sample with CMV virus, incubating the mixture in a human primary epithelial cell culture, and counting the number of infected cells. We used CytoGam, an approved product for prevention of CMV in transplant patients, as a control in our experiment. CytoGam is cytomegalovirus immune globulin from pooled plasma of CMV seropositive donors. The table below shows the neutralization antibody titers in epithelial cells for escalating vaccine doses in mice, demonstrating our ability to generate neutralizing antibodies. We also observed that at the highest dose, our mRNA vaccine generated a response more than 75-fold higher than CytoGam at estimated clinical levels. In addition, we have also observed that the Pentamer and gB mRNAs can elicit strong T cell responses.
CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647): Clinical data
We have demonstrated tolerability and generated immunogenicity data in our Phase 1 and 2 trials. Based on interim Phase 2 data, we have initiated planning a Phase 3 trial of mRNA-1647 vaccine efficacy.
Phase 1 12-Month Interim Analysis
We announced positive data from the 12-month interim analysis of the Phase 1 clinical trial of mRNA-1647, which has completed the final study visit of its last participant and is evaluating the safety and immunogenicity of mRNA-1647 in 181 healthy adult volunteers.
The clinical trial population includes those who are naïve to CMV infection (CMV-seronegative) and those who had previously been infected by CMV (CMV-seropositive). Participants were randomized to receive either placebo, or 30, 90, 180 or 300 µg of mRNA-1647 on a dosing schedule of 0, 2 and 6 months. This 12-month planned interim analysis assessed immunogenicity of the first three dose levels (30, 90, and 180 µg) at 12 months (six months after the third vaccination), and the highest dose level (300 µg) at seven months (one month after the third vaccination). The analysis also assessed safety of the highest dose level at seven months. Neutralizing antibody titers (levels of circulating antibodies that block infection) were assessed in two assays utilizing epithelial cells and fibroblasts, which measure immune response to the pentamer and gB vaccine antigens, respectively. gB antigen-specific T cell responses after the second and third vaccinations were measured in a subset of CMV-seronegative participants in the 30, 90 and 180 µg dose levels utilizing an ELISpot assay. Pentamer-specific T cell assays remain in development. Vaccine-induced neutralizing antibody responses in the CMV-seronegative group were compared to the baseline neutralizing antibody titers in the CMV-seropositive group, noting that prior maternal CMV infection is associated with an approximately 30-fold lower risk of congenital CMV infection compared to the risk in the setting of maternal primary CMV infection.
In CMV-seronegative participants at seven months (one month after the third vaccination) in the 30, 90 and 180 µg dose levels:
•A dose-related increase in neutralizing antibody titers was observed in both epithelial cell and fibroblast assays.
•After the third vaccination, neutralizing antibody titers against epithelial cell infection were greater than 10 times higher in the 90 and 180 µg dose levels than CMV-seropositive baseline titers at the 90 and 180 µg dose levels.
•After the third vaccination, neutralizing antibody titers against fibroblast infection were 1.3 to 1.4 times higher than CMV-seropositive baseline titers at the 90 and 180 µg dose levels.
In CMV-seronegative participants at twelve months (six months after the third vaccination) in the 30, 90, and 180 µg dose levels:
•Neutralizing antibody titers remained at least 3.5-fold higher than the natural infection benchmark in epithelial cell assays.
•Titers in fibroblast assays approximated that of the natural infection benchmark in the in the 90 μg and 180 μg treatment groups
In CMV-seropositive participants at seven months (one month after the third vaccination) in the 30, 90 and 180 µg dose levels:
•A dose-related increase in neutralizing antibody titers was observed in both epithelial cell and fibroblast assays.
•The third vaccination boosted neutralizing antibody titers against epithelial cell infection to levels of 22-fold to 40-fold over baseline titers in all dose levels.
•The third vaccination boosted neutralizing antibody titers against fibroblast infection to levels of approximately 4-fold to 6-fold over baseline titers in all dose levels.
In CMV-seropositive participants at twelve months (six months after the third vaccination) in the 30, 90, and 180 µg dose levels:
•Neutralizing antibody titers were 14-fold to 31-fold over baseline titers in epithelial cell assays.
•Titers in fibroblast assays were 6-fold to 8-fold over baseline titers.
Participants receiving 300 µg of mRNA-1647 followed through seven months (one month after the third vaccination) continued to show consistent dose-dependent increases in neutralizing antibodies against epithelial cell infection and against fibroblast infection in both CMV-seronegative and CMV-seropositive groups. In CMV-seronegative participants at seven months, the neutralizing antibody titers in epithelial cell assays increased further to 17-fold higher than the natural infection benchmark, and neutralizing antibody titers in fibroblast assays increased further to 5-fold higher than natural infection benchmark. In CMV-seropositive participants at seven months, the neutralizing antibody titers in epithelial cell assays was 13.4-fold over baseline titers and against fibroblast infection was 7.1-fold over baseline titer. In a subset of CMV-seronegative participants in the 30, 90 and 180 µg dose levels, gB antigen-specific T cell activation was observed at all dose levels after the second and third vaccinations.
A safety analysis indicated that the vaccine was generally well-tolerated. There were no vaccine-related serious adverse events. Across all mRNA-1647 treatment groups, the most common solicited local adverse reaction, or AR, was injection site pain and the most common solicited systemic ARs were headache, fatigue, myalgia, arthralgia, and chills. Fever was reported in 0-55% of CMV-seronegative treatment groups and in 8-75% of CMV-seropositive treatment groups. In general, solicited systemic ARs occurred less frequently after the third vaccination compared to the second, and were more common in the CMV-seropositive treatment groups compared to the CMV-seronegative treatment groups. Grade 3 solicited ARs were more common in CMV-seropositive participants, and were fatigue (0-27% of a given dose cohort), chills (0-38% of a given dose cohort) and fever (0-33% of a given dose cohort). As reported in the previous interim analysis, there was a single Grade 4 AR of an isolated lab finding of elevated partial thromboplastin time, which was elevated at baseline (Grade 1) and self-resolved on the next lab test with no associated clinical findings. Safety and tolerability in participants receiving 300 µg of mRNA-1647 was comparable to that observed at the 180 µg dose level in CMV-seropositive participants and generally higher in 300 µg dose level in CMV-seronegative participants.
Although the small sample size limits the conclusions that can be drawn from the data, the findings from this interim analysis build on an earlier interim analysis of safety and immunogenicity data through one month after the third vaccination in the 30, 90 and 180 µg dose levels and one month after the second vaccination in the 300 µg dose level.
Phase 2 Part 1 3-Month Interim Analysis
In Part 1 of the Phase 2 study, participants were randomized to receive either placebo, or 50, 100, or 150 µg of mRNA-1647 on a dosing schedule of 0, 2, and 6 months. The planned 3-month interim analysis of safety and immunogenicity through 3 months (1 month after the second vaccination) in September 2020 informed the selection of the 100 µg dose level for the Phase 3 pivotal efficacy study. In addition, we have initiated enrollment in Part 2 of the Phase 2 study, which is evaluating safety and immunogenicity of the 100 µg dose level to expand the safety dataset in the target population planned for the Phase 3 study.
In CMV-seronegative participants at three months (one month after the second vaccination) in the 50, 100 and 150 µg dose levels:
•Neutralizing antibody titers against epithelial cell infection increased to at least 12-fold over the CMV-seropositive baseline titers after the second vaccination and were generally numerically similar in the 50, 100, and 150 μg treatment groups.
•Neutralizing antibody titers against fibroblast infection increased to titers equivalent to the CMV-seropositive baseline titers after the second vaccination and were generally numerically similar in the 50, 100, and 150 μg treatment groups.
In CMV-seropositive participants at three months (one month after the second vaccination) in the 50, 100 and 150 µg dose levels:
•Neutralizing antibody titers against epithelial cell infection increased 12 to 51-fold over the CMV-seropositive baseline titers after the second vaccination.
•Neutralizing antibody titers against fibroblast infection increased to levels at least 2-fold over CMV-seropositive baseline titers after the first and second vaccination.
Phase 2 Continuation and Phase 3 Planning
Our randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-confirmation Phase 2 study is investigating the safety and immunogenicity of mRNA-1647 in approximately 252 healthy CMV-seronegative and CMV-seropositive adult volunteers in Part 1 of the study, and an additional approximately 250 healthy CMV-seronegative and CMV-seropositive female volunteers in Part 2 of the study in the U.S.
We are actively preparing for a global, randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled Phase 3 pivotal study to evaluate the efficacy of mRNA-1647 against primary CMV infection in females 16-40 years of age. We solicited and received Type C meeting feedback from the FDA on the preliminary design of the pivotal trial, requested an end-of-phase 2 (EoP2) meeting with FDA for mid-March 2021, and submitted our Phase 3 development plans to FDA in a briefing document. We believe this can be achieved with a trial with no more than 8,000 participants and study site selection and/or site feasibility has already begun across North America, Europe, Australia, and Israel. The pivotal Phase 3 trial design will be finalized after discussion with the FDA and other global health authorities. Additional adolescent bridging and concomitant vaccination trials are being planned.
Epstein-Barr Virus vaccine (mRNA-1189)
Our EBV vaccine seeks to prevent the development of infectious mononucleosis and potentially prevent EBV infection.
Epstein-Barr virus, or EBV, a member of the herpesvirus family that includes CMV, infects approximately 90% of people by adulthood, with primary infection typically occurring during childhood and late adolescence (approximately 50% and 89% seropositivity, respectively) in the U.S. EBV is the major cause of infectious mononucleosis in the U.S., accounting for over 90% of the approximately 1-2 million cases of infectious mononucleosis in the U.S. each year. Infectious mononucleosis can debilitate patients for weeks to months and, in some cases, can lead to hospitalization and splenic rupture. EBV infection is associated with the development and progression of certain lymphoproliferative disorders, cancers, and autoimmune diseases. In particular, EBV infection and infectious mononucleosis are associated with increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system. There is no approved vaccine or effective treatment for EBV. Similar to CMV, EBV has lytic and latent stages in its lifecycle and contains on its surface (envelope) multiple glycoproteins and glycoprotein complexes (gp350, gH/gL, gH/gL/gp42 and gB) that mediate virus entry and infection in different cell types. EBV gp350 mediates attachment to B cells through binding to the complement receptor 2 (CR2), followed by binding of the viral gH/gL/gp42 complex to human leukocyte antigen (HLA) class II. Infection of epithelial cells instead requires binding of gH/gL to a different set of receptors. For both B cell and epithelial cell entry, binding of an EBV gH/gL complex to a cell-specific receptor leads to activation of gB, which in turn facilitates virus-cell-membrane fusion and infection. gH/gL and gB comprise the core viral-fusion machinery conserved across all herpesviruses.
Similar to our CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647) product concept, we used our platform to generate an mRNA vaccine containing five mRNAs encoding for gp350, gB, gH, gL, and gp42, which are expressed in their native membrane-bound conformation for recognition by the immune system. We have observed preclinical immunogenicity in the form of high and durable levels of antigen-specific antibodies against both B cell and epithelial cell infection in mice and in non-human primates (NHPs). We intend to conduct a Phase 1 trial to test the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine to understand its potential to prevent primary infection, and prevent infectious mononucleosis following EBV infection, in seronegative adults.
Epstein-Barr Virus: Disease overview
EBV is the major cause (approximately 90%) of infectious mononucleosis and has been associated with the development of a range of malignancies and autoimmune disorders.
EBV is a common herpesvirus that is spread through bodily fluids, most commonly saliva, and is contracted primarily by young children and adolescents. Adolescents and young adults seroconvert at high rates, particularly in college-aged populations (approximately 10-25% per year) resulting a seroprevalence of approximately 90% by the age of 20. After primary infection, the virus establishes latency and persists in that state for life in most infected individuals. The virus can reactivate intermittently over time even in immunocompetent hosts. The virus usually infects resting B cells in the oropharynx or epithelial cells, which line the mucosal surfaces of the body and in turn infect B cells. B cells disseminate systemically and act as a reservoir for latent virus. Primary infection can cause infectious mononucleosis in 35% to 75% of instances, depending on age, and is characterized by symptoms requiring physician visits, including sore throat, lymph node swelling, fever, body aches and fatigue, often resulting in months of missed work and school for patients and caregivers.
There is currently no approved vaccine against EBV, but the potential of gp350 alone to reduce the rate of infectious mononucleosis has already been clinically demonstrated. An experimental vaccine, developed by others, consisting of adjuvanted recombinant gp350 protein led to a reduction in the incidence of infectious mononucleosis in 78% of the participants in a Phase 2 study of 181 healthy volunteers between the ages of 16-25. However, there was no significant difference between groups in protection against asymptomatic EBV infection. We believe that the addition of gH/gL and gB has the potential to provide protection against epithelial cell infection. We believe the immune response against gp350, gH/gL or gB has the potential to provide B cell protection, which may be further enhanced by the inclusion of gp42. By preventing infection in epithelial cells and B cells, this mRNA vaccine has the potential not only to significantly reduce the rate of infectious mononucleosis, but also to prevent EBV infection.
EBV infection is associated with increased risk of developing certain cancers and multiple sclerosis. In Western industrialized countries, EBV is implicated in the development of post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder conditions as well as multiple cancers, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Additionally, in those seropositive for EBV, development of infectious mononucleosis is associated with a greater than 2-fold increased relative lifetime risk of developing multiple sclerosis. In East Asia, EBV is associated with 80-99% of nasopharyngeal carcinomas that arise. In Africa, EBV is implicated in the development of approximately 95% of cases of endemic Burkitt’s lymphoma. Together, approximately 1.5% of worldwide cancer deaths are attributable to EBV-associated malignancies.
EBV vaccine (mRNA-1189): Our product concept
We are developing a vaccine with multiple antigens designed to prevent development of infectious mononucleosis and EBV infections.
Similar to our CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647) product concept, we believe that an effective EBV vaccine must generate an immune response to antigens that are required for viral entry in most of the susceptible cell types. We have thus designed our EBV vaccine, mRNA-1189, to elicit an immune response to EBV envelope glycoproteins gp350 as well as gB, gp42, and the gH/gL complex, which are required for infection of both epithelial and B cells. mRNA-1189 contains five mRNAs encoding the viral proteins gp350, gB, gp42, gH, and gL encapsulated in our proprietary LNPs. Proteins translated from our mRNA will be displayed on the cell surface in their native conformation, stimulating the production of neutralizing antibodies. By training the immune system to recognize and neutralize the machinery used to infect B and epithelial cells, we believe that our vaccine has the potential to prevent EBV primary infection and therefore the development of infectious mononucleosis. Further, in the long-run, should our EBV vaccine be approved, we may pursue post-marketing and population studies to potentially evaluate its impact on other EBV-associated diseases. Our EBV vaccine utilizes the same proprietary platform technology as our CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647), which was generally well-tolerated and demonstrated durable neutralizing antibody titers higher than those measured in CMV-seropositive patients following up to three doses of mRNA-1647 in our Phase 1 trial.
EBV vaccine (mRNA-1189): Preclinical information
We have demonstrated the ability to induce antibodies against EBV antigens required for viral entry into B cells and epithelial cells.
Naïve Balb/c mice were given two doses of a vaccine against EBV antigens in combination approximately four weeks apart. Antibody titers against viral proteins involved in epithelial cell entry (gH/gL and gB) or B cell entry (gp350, gH/gL and gB) were measured in peripheral blood at day 57. Results shown here represent five animals per group and demonstrate high levels of antigen-specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) as compared to negative controls.
EBV vaccine (mRNA-1189): Clinical plan
We are planning a Phase 1 clinical trial to test the safety and immunogenicity of mRNA-1189 in seronegative adults.
We intend to conduct a Phase 1 trial to test the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine to understand its potential to prevent primary infection, and prevent infectious mononucleosis following EBV infection, in seronegative adults.
PROPHYLACTIC VACCINES: GLOBAL HEALTH PROGRAMS
Our global health portfolio for prophylactic vaccines seeks to leverage our mRNA technology to address epidemic and pandemic diseases. We are currently working with strategic collaborators such as BARDA, DARPA, NIH, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) to fund and support our programs within this area.
Zika vaccine (mRNA-1893)
In collaboration with BARDA, we have advanced a second generation Zika vaccine candidate to a Phase 1 clinical trial
Zika is an infectious disease caused by the Zika virus; infection during pregnancy has been linked to severe brain damage in infants with congenital infection and Guillain-Barré Syndrome in adults. To date, no vaccine to prevent Zika infection has been approved. In September 2016, we were awarded a contract with BARDA to be reimbursed up to approximately $125.0 million for the development of a Zika mRNA vaccine. Preclinical and clinical studies were carried out on an initial candidate, mRNA-1325. When a second-generation Zika vaccine, mRNA-1893, demonstrated better protection than mRNA-1325 in non-human primates at 1/20 of the dose, we decided to move forward with mRNA-1893 and discontinue development of mRNA-1325. mRNA-1893 is currently under evaluation in a Phase 1 trial in the United States. Enrollment and dosing are complete, and the interim analysis is available.
Zika vaccine (mRNA-1893): Disease overview
We faced a Zika epidemic in 2015 for which there were no vaccines or treatments
The Zika virus is a single stranded RNA virus of the flaviviridae family. It was first isolated in a rhesus macaque in the Zika Forest, Uganda in 1947 and the first human case was documented in 1952. Seroepidemiology data suggest that it is endemic to regions of Africa and Asia where the Aedes mosquito vectors are found. Zika virus is predominantly spread by mosquitos from the Aedes genus, but it can also be transmitted congenitally, sexually, and through blood donation.
Zika infection is usually asymptomatic or mild in adults, leading to fever, rash, and conjunctivitis. However, infection of women during pregnancy can result in devastating microcephaly in newborns. Microcephaly is a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head and brain, associated with lifelong neurodevelopmental delay, seizures, intellectual disability, balance problems, and dwarfism / short stature, resulting in significant disability and requiring lifelong support.
In 2007, a Zika infection outbreak progressed across the Pacific islands. An outbreak observed in Brazil in 2015 soon spread across the Americas. This led to the WHO declaring it a public health emergency of international concern in 2016. During the period, there were tens of thousands of cases of microcephaly and congenital Zika syndrome reported in infants and of resulting neurological sequelae such as Guillain-Barré syndrome reported in adults.
While the number of cases has declined in the past couple of years, there is currently no treatment or vaccine available for the Zika virus to prevent and respond to potential future epidemics.
Zika vaccine (mRNA-1893): Our product concept
A more immunogenic second-generation vaccine was rapidly advanced to a Phase 1 clinical trial
Continued efforts at identifying different mRNA sequences with improved immunogenicity led to mRNA-1893, a sequence distinct from the first Zika vaccine candidate, mRNA-1325, that increases production of Zika viral-like particles (VLPs) and generates enhanced immunogenicity and protection in preclinical animal models compared with mRNA-1325, as depicted in the image below.
Zika vaccine (mRNA-1893): Clinical data
We are conducting a Phase 1 trial for mRNA-1893 in the United States. The results of the Phase 1 study support continued clinical development of mRNA-1893 and a Phase 2 study is planned for initiation in 2021
Dosing has been completed in a Phase 1 randomized, observer-blind, placebo-controlled, dose-ranging study to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of mRNA-1893 in healthy adults (18 to 49 years of age, inclusive) in endemic and non-endemic Zika regions. Key objectives of the study include:
•Assessing the safety, tolerability, and reactogenicity of a 2‑dose vaccination schedule of mRNA-1893 Zika vaccine, given 28 days apart, across a range of dose levels in flavivirus-seronegative and flavivirus-seropositive participants compared with placebo;
•Assessing the immunogenicity of a range of doses of mRNA-1893 Zika vaccine.
Subjects were randomly assigned in a blinded fashion in an approximate 4:1 ratio to receive mRNA-1893 or placebo at one of four dose levels (10 µg, 30 µg, 100 µg, and 250 µg), with each subject receiving two vaccinations separated by 28 days. Twenty-five of the enrolled participants at each dose level were flavivirus seronegative and five were flavivirus seropositive.
mRNA-1893 was well tolerated at all dose levels, and safety and tolerability did not appear to be influenced by the serostatus of the participants at baseline. ZIKV-specific neutralizing antibodies were measured by Plaque Reduction Neutralization Test (PRNT50) and Microneutralization (MN). All dose levels of mRNA-1893 induced a strong neutralizing ZIKV-specific antibody response in baseline flavivirus seronegative participants. GMTs post-dose two were comparable to those in a small panel of Zika convalescent sera collected during the epidemic. In participants with pre-existing flavivirus antibodies, neutralizing antibody titers were boosted with a single dose of the vaccine as shown by the GMTs and the seroconversion rates. The participants will continue to be followed through 12 months to measure antibody persistence with time and to monitor safety.
HIV vaccine program (mRNA-1644 & mRNA-1574)
We are advancing two development candidates against HIV – Phase 1 innovation is needed to accelerate human validation of novel strategies.
mRNA-1644, a collaboration with the IAVI and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a novel strategy and approach to vaccination against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in humans designed to elicit broadly Neutralizing HIV-1 Antibodies (bNAbs). A Phase 1 study for mRNA-1644 will be the first trial in a series of human studies to iteratively test and improve HIV vaccine antigens that elicit bNAbs using a germline-targeting and immuno-focusing. A second trial, mRNA-1574, is being evaluated in collaboration with NIH and includes multiple native-like trimer antigens.
We expect to begin Phase 1 clinical trials for both mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1574 in 2021. These programs have the potential to inform the future of the HIV vaccine field, and provide an opportunity for our mRNA technology to play a key role in accelerating the discovery of a protective HIV vaccine.
HIV vaccine program (mRNA-1644 & mRNA-1574): Disease overview
HIV is the virus responsible for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a lifelong, progressive illness with no effective cure. Approximately 38 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV, with 1.2 million in the U.S. Approximately 2 million new infections of HIV are acquired worldwide every year and approximately 690,000 people die annually due to complications from HIV/AIDS. The primary routes of transmission are sexual intercourse and IV drug use, putting young adults at the highest risk of infection. From 2000 to 2015, a total of $562.6 billion globally was spent on care, treatment and prevention of HIV, representing a significant economic burden. There are no approved HIV vaccines and no effective cure.
Nipah vaccine (mRNA-1215)
We are collaborating with the NIH-VRC for pandemic preparedness
mRNA-1215, our vaccine candidate against the Nipah virus (NiV), was co-developed along with the NIH-VRC. The Phase 1 clinical testing will be focused on pandemic preparedness.
Nipah vaccine (mRNA-1215): Disease overview
NiV is a zoonotic virus transmitted to humans from animals, contaminated food, or through direct human-to-human transmission and causes a range of illnesses including fatal encephalitis. Severe respiratory and neurologic complications from NiV have no treatment other than intensive supportive care. The case fatality rate among those infected is estimated at 40-75%. NiV outbreaks cause significant economic burden to impacted regions due to loss of human life and interventions to prevent further spread, such as the slaughter of infected animals. NiV has been identified as the cause of isolated outbreaks in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Singapore since 2000 and is included on the WHO R&D Blueprint list of epidemic threats needing urgent R&D action.
H7N9 influenza vaccine (mRNA-1851)
H7N9 investigational vaccine demonstrates the potential of our platform to respond to an influenza pandemic
As a proof of concept and as part of our earlier efforts to develop a vaccine against influenza, we developed vaccines for H10N8 and H7N9 avian influenza strains, where there is a quantitative correlate for protection in humans (hemagglutinin inhibition, or HAI, titer of > 1:40). The results of the Phase 1 trial for H7N9 vaccine were reported by us in Vaccine in 2019. The trial has met its objectives of assessing the safety and tolerability profile of mRNA-1851 versus placebo, including capturing solicited and unsolicited local and systemic adverse events. The Phase 1 trial for H7N9 vaccine has also demonstrated immunogenicity and we have observed 96% of the subjects demonstrating HAI titers > 1:40 at day 43 (21 days post-second vaccination) for the 25 µg dose where HAI > 1:40 is regarded as a quantitative measure for protection from influenza. We believe the data provides support to advance the program in clinical development if we choose to with additional government or other funding. However, we do not intend to progress the H7N9 vaccine through clinical development on our own.
SYSTEMIC SECRETED AND CELL SURFACE THERAPEUTICS MODALITY
We designed our systemic secreted therapeutics modality to increase levels of desired secreted proteins in circulation or in contact with the extracellular environment, in order to achieve a therapeutic effect in one or more tissues or cell types. The goal of this modality is to provide secreted proteins, such as antibodies or enzyme replacement therapies across a wide range of diseases, such as heart failure, infectious diseases, and rare genetic diseases. This modality has benefited from our strategic alliances with AstraZeneca, DARPA, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We have accumulated several innovations in technology, have gained process insights, and have built a set of preclinical and clinical experiences in our systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics modality. Based on these, we believe this modality is core to our portfolio and we have expanded this portfolio with two new development candidates in a new autoimmune therapeutic area in 2020. Our systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics modality has four development candidates.
Systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics: Opportunity
The ability to systemically deliver mRNA for a therapeutic effect would allow us to address a number of diseases of high unmet medical need. Systemically delivered, secreted and cell surface therapeutics address conditions often treated with recombinant proteins that are typically administered to the blood stream. These current therapies include, for example:
•Enzyme replacement therapies, or ERTs, for rare diseases;
•Antibodies for membrane and extracellular soluble targets; and
•Circulating modulation factors for common and rare diseases such as growth factors and insulin.
Systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics: Product features
Systemically delivered, secreted and cell surface therapeutics, we believe, would allow us to target areas of biology that cannot be addressed using recombinant proteins. Our potential advantages in these areas include:
•mRNA can produce hard-to-make or complex secreted proteins. Some proteins, due to their folding requirements or complexity, are challenging to make using recombinant technologies, but can potentially be produced by human cells using administered mRNA.
•mRNA can produce membrane associated proteins. In contrast to recombinant proteins, mRNA can lead to the production of membrane associated proteins on the cell surface, allowing the expression of native forms of signaling receptors or other cell surface complexes.
•Native post-translational modifications are possible through intracellular protein production using mRNA. mRNA administered to a human cell uses natural secretory pathways inside the cell to make and process the encoded protein. The resulting post-translational modifications, such as glycosylation, are human. With recombinant proteins, these post-translational modifications are native to the non-human cells used for manufacture. These non-human post-translational modifications in recombinant proteins may lead to sub-optimal therapeutic outcomes, side effects, and increased immunogenicity.
•mRNA can sustain production of proteins, which can increase exposure to proteins with short half-lives. mRNA can lead to protein production by cells that can last from hours to days depending on design. This feature could increase the levels of short half-life proteins for therapeutic benefit.
•mRNA allows for desirable pharmacology in rare genetic diseases currently addressed by enzyme replacement therapies. Our mRNA technology potentially permits several differentiated pharmacologic features for treating rare genetic diseases currently addressed by enzyme replacement therapies, including the ability to repeat dose as needed, lower immunogenicity of the replacement protein, the ability to adjust dose levels in real-time based on individual patient needs, and the ability to stop dosing. Gene therapies may also prove to be useful for treating rare genetic diseases; however, mRNA is not limited by pre-existing immunity that may exist for certain gene therapies using viral vectors, and does not localize to the nucleus or require persistent changes to cellular DNA to have the desired effect.
Our systemic secreted and cell surface therapeutics modality comprises programs where mRNAs instruct various cells of the human body to secrete proteins for therapeutic effect. For systemic therapeutic programs that utilize cells in the liver, the liver is a highly productive tissue for secreted protein production. The human liver can make tens of grams of proteins per day, well above the amounts necessary for the pharmacologic effect for virtually all protein therapeutics. We have demonstrated that mRNA can make and secrete monoclonal antibodies and soluble modulating factors in non-human primates. These proteins made in non-human primates can exert their pharmacological activity by binding to targets with biological effect. Recombinant protein therapeutics, which focus on secreted proteins, generate over $200 billion in annual worldwide sales.
Antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944)
Systemic mRNA administration to instruct cells to secrete antibodies, in this case for passive immunization to prevent Chikungunya infection
We are using this program to help understand how mRNA can be used to make complex secreted proteins in the human body and to address the potential health threat of Chikungunya virus, particularly for the military and others exposed to this virus. This program highlights a potentially important advancement of our platform and expansion of our modalities.
Chikungunya is a serious health problem and is estimated to have caused at least 3 million cases during the 2005-2015 epidemic. There are no available vaccines or prophylactic treatments for this disease. This virus can cause severe and chronic arthritic-like conditions in up to 50% of infected people. This program offers a passive immunization approach using antibodies to prevent infection, to complement our vaccine approach. In this program, we utilize two mRNAs encoding for light chain and heavy chain of an antibody against the envelope glycoprotein E. We administered these mRNAs encapsulated in our proprietary LNPs intravenously to people to prevent infection by the Chikungunya virus. We are being financially supported for specific activities by DARPA.
Antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944): Disease overview
Addressing a significant global health need
Chikungunya virus is a mosquito-borne alphavirus posing a significant public health problem in tropical and subtropical regions. While Chikungunya has been present in Africa for centuries, recent outbreaks and epidemics in new regions have arisen due to the expanding distribution of the Aedes mosquito in which it resides. A Chikungunya epidemic beginning in 2004 in Kenya spread to India and was exported to nearly all regions of the world and brought Chikungunya to the attention of the western world. As of April 2016, Chikungunya cases had been reported in 103 countries and territories around the world, including 46 countries and territories throughout the Americas. Chikungunya virus infection is characterized by an acute onset of fever, rash, myalgia, and sometimes debilitating polyarthralgia, giving the virus its name, which means “that which bends up” when translated from Makonde. While generally non-fatal, neurological sequelae such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and chronic arthritis have been recognized.
Chikungunya virus is an alphavirus of the Togaviridae family with a positive-strand RNA genome. The viral structural proteins are naturally expressed as a single polyprotein followed by subsequent cleavage by viral and cellular proteases into capsid (C) and envelope (E) glycoproteins E3, E2, 6k, and E1. The E proteins are major targets of protective neutralizing antibody responses that can be assessed in assays. In animal models, passive immunotherapy with convalescent sera from Chikungunya infected patients and human Chikungunya virus-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibodies that mainly recognize E2, have been shown to prevent CHKV infection, providing an approach for therapy.
There are currently no effective therapies or approved vaccines to treat or prevent Chikungunya infection or disease, and effective mosquito control has proven challenging, even in higher income countries. Currently, infected individuals are treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve some symptoms. Therefore, in addition to an effective prophylactic vaccine, we believe there is a need for systemic secreted antibody with the potential to provide passive immunity both prophylactically in susceptible populations and for treatment of active Chikungunya virus infections.
Antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944): Our product concept
A systemically delivered mRNA instructing cells to secrete an antibody to glycoprotein E to neutralize Chikungunya
The mRNA-1944 development candidate contains two mRNAs that encode the heavy and light chains of the Chikungunya antibody and utilizes our proprietary LNPs. The mRNA-1944 development candidate encodes a fully human IgG antibody isolated from B cells of a patient with a prior history of Chikungunya infection that targets the E2 protein. The systemic antibody against Chikungunya virus titers can be evaluated in clinical trials by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA, to quantify the amount of expressed IgG. A neutralization assay can be used to ensure that the mRNA expressed antibody was properly folded and functional.
Antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944): Preclinical information
Systemic mRNA administration results in antibody production and protection from Chikungunya infection in animals
In preclinical studies, mRNA-1944 administered by infusion, elicited high levels of neutralizing antibodies in a dose-dependent manner that were protective against arthritis, musculoskeletal tissue infection and lethal challenge in mouse models. After treatment with 0.5 mg/kg of mRNA-1944, complete survival of mice was observed when challenged 24 hours post-prophylaxis with Chikungunya virus. In cynomolgus macaques following infusion of a single-dose of mRNA-1944 at 0.5 mg/kg, mean maximum concentrations of human Chikungunya antibodies (10.1-35.9 µg/ml) were reached at 24 hours that exceeded the levels needed for protection in mice with a half-life of 23 day.
In addition, mRNA-1944 was tested in rats and non-human primates in a repeat-dose study via IV infusion at up to 5 and 3 mg/kg, respectively. No dose-limiting toxicities related to mRNA-1944 were observed and all other observations were generally reversible.
Antibody against Chikungunya virus (mRNA-1944): Clinical data
Two-dose regimen of Chikungunya antibody demonstrates the platform’s ability for safe repeat doing
We are conducting a Phase 1, randomized, placebo-controlled dose-escalation study of mRNA-1944 in healthy adults. The objective of this first-in-human study is to evaluate the safety and tolerability of escalating single doses of mRNA-1944 at 0.1 and 0.3 mg/kg, and 0.6 mg/kg with and without dexamethasone included in the premedication regimen with 8 subjects per cohort, and 2 weekly doses of 0.3 mg/kg administered via intravenous infusion. No further dose escalation beyond 0.6 mg/kg is planned. Other objectives are to determine the pharmacokinetics of all dose levels of mRNA-1944, to determine if the antibodies produced are sufficiently active to neutralize viral infection in assays and to determine the pharmacodynamics of anti-Chikungunya virus IgG levels. The safety monitoring committee, or SMC, reviews the safety data for the dose level and recommends escalation to the next dose level.
In September 2019 we announced that single doses of mRNA-1944 at 0.1, 0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg resulted in levels of antibody that exceeded those expected to be protective against chikungunya infection (>1 μg/mL), and the 0.3 mg/kg and 0.6 mg/kg doses were projected to maintain antibody levels above protective levels for at least 16 weeks as shown in the panel below. The average serum antibody level was quantified at various time points to demonstrate a half-life of 62 days. No significant adverse events were observed at the low and middle doses; infusion-related adverse events were observed at the high dose, which resolved spontaneously without treatment.
In September 2020, we announced positive interim data from the Phase 1 study evaluating escalating doses of mRNA-1944 at 0.1, 0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg dose with and without steroid premedication and two doses of 0.3 mg/kg given one week apart. Administration of mRNA-1944 at all doses resulted in dose-dependent increases in levels of antibody against Chikungunya virus with a mean half-life of ~69 days. Post-single doses of 0.3 and 0.6 mg/kg therapeutically-relevant concentrations of antibody (>1 µg/mL) were observed for 16 weeks. Neutralizing antibodies were observed at all dose levels, indicating functional antibody production by mRNA-1944. Across doses of mRNA-1944, adverse effects were mild-to-moderate in severity and transient, and none were serious. The most common adverse events were headache, nausea, myalgia, dizziness and chills. Following a second dose of mRNA-1944 at the 0.3 mg/kg level, a 1.8-fold increase in the concentration of chikungunya virus was observed, with no worsening or exacerbation of side effects, and no significant accumulation of mRNA, LNP components or acute phase reactants.
The Phase 1 trial is ongoing in follow-up period during 2021.
Phase 1 interim analysis with two-dose regimen
Relaxin (mRNA-0184): Summary
We have regained rights to develop relaxin from AstraZeneca and are evaluating the program
Until December 2020, we collaborated with AstraZeneca on mRNA encoding for a relaxin protein designed for a long duration of action. Relaxin is a well-studied natural protein hormone that is known to have cardiovascular protective effects. Earlier attempts at developing relaxin as a protein therapeutic have not been successful. We believe that engineering the relaxin protein for a longer duration, utilizing repeat dosing, and pursuing an alternate indication might overcome the shortcomings of earlier attempts. We use mRNA encoding for an engineered relaxin protein designed for a longer duration of action. It is also designed to be produced by the body with human post-translational modifications.
In December 2020, we regained the rights to the relaxin program from AstraZeneca (previously AZD7970). We are currently evaluating our options for advancing the program.
Autoimmune Therapeutic Area (mRNA-6981 and mRNA-6231) Introduction
Our company strategy continues to be to invest in our platform technology and scalable infrastructure to pursue a pipeline of potential medicines that reflect the breadth of the mRNA opportunity. In January 2020, we announced the entry into a fifth therapeutic area, autoimmune diseases, building on the clinical validation of the systemic delivery of mRNA provided by the Phase 1 clinical proof of concept of the chikungunya antibody program. Autoimmune diseases are characterized by immune activation in response to antigens normally present in the body, reflecting a loss of tolerance. Within this therapeutic area, we are developing two potential medicines, mRNA-6981 and mRNA-6231, designed to engage peripheral tolerance pathways to dampen autoimmune activation and help restore immune homeostasis, thereby reducing autoimmune pathology. In this modality, mRNA is delivered systemically to create proteins that are either secreted or expressed on the cell surface.
Our approach to the treatment of autoimmune diseases is to leverage mechanisms of peripheral tolerance to modulate the immune system’s reaction to self-antigens.
Scientific and technical advances enable our expansion into new therapeutic areas, the latest of which is autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases are defined by pathology resulting from an adaptive immune response against an antigen or antigens normally present within the body. Pathology is present in a variety of organs across autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune hepatitis and related disorders such as graft vs host disease. Autoimmune diseases affect millions of patients worldwide, many of whose disease is not well-controlled by existing treatment options, and represent billions of dollars in healthcare costs.
In healthy people, autoimmune reactions are prevented or controlled by mechanisms of tolerance. Lymphocytes (e.g., T and B cells) that are reactive against self-antigens are deleted during development, thus establishing central tolerance. Central tolerance is not completely protective, and so other mechanisms, collectively known as peripheral tolerance, act on any self-reactive lymphocytes that escape central tolerance to control potential autoimmune pathology. These mechanisms of peripheral tolerance include induction of a reversible state of cellular non-responsiveness in self-reactive cells called anergy, and expression of inhibitory receptors or cytokines by other cells, such as dendritic cells, macrophages, and regulatory T cells (Tregs). The immune system works constantly to maintain balance between a state of immune activation and immune tolerance, sometimes called homeostasis. We are developing two potential medicines we believe have the potential to engage peripheral tolerance mechanisms to dampen autoimmune activation and help restore immune homeostasis. PD-L1 (mRNA-6981) aims to induce the expression of this inhibitory receptor on myeloid cells, and IL-2 (mRNA-6231) aims to preferentially increase the number of Tregs.
PD-L1 is a co-inhibitory receptor that can induce anergy in programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1)-expressing T cells.
Antigen presenting cells, such as dendritic cells, form stable cell-cell junctions with T and B cells, called immune synapses, to communicate in three ways: Signal 1 (antigen presentation and recognition), Signal 2 (co-stimulatory signals to activate the cell) and Signal 3 (cytokines, chemokines, and certain metabolites to activate, repress, or modulate the immune response). When immune synapses occur in the context of high levels of co-inhibition, such as high levels of PD-L1 expressed on antigen presenting cells, this may result in the induction of peripheral regulatory T cells, induction of a reversible non-responsive state called anergy, or death of autoreactive lymphocytes due to removal of critical survival signals. Given their role in adaptive immune responses and their involvement in autoimmune disorders, dendritic cells and other myeloid populations have become a target of recent immunotherapies.
The PD-L1/PD-1 pathway has a critical function in immune regulation and promotes development and function of Tregs. PD-L1 is a transmembrane protein expressed on antigen presenting cells, such as dendritic cells and macrophages, activated T cells, B cells, and monocytes as well as peripheral tissues. Its cognate receptor, PD-1, is a co-inhibitory transmembrane protein expressed on T cells, B cells, natural killer cells and thymocytes. Engagement of PD-1 to PD-L1 results in decreased IL-2 production and glucose metabolism, with continued engagement leading to induction of T cell anergy or conversion of naïve cells into peripheral regulatory T cells. Engagement of PD-L1 with PD-1 also inhibits T cell proliferation, cytotoxic activity and cytokine production, and suppresses the reactivation of previously activated T effector cells.
Preclinical mouse models deficient in PD-1 spontaneously develop a variety of autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, myocarditis, lupus-like glomerulonephritis and type 1 diabetes, demonstrating the critical role of the PD-L1/PD-1 interaction in maintaining tolerance to self-antigens. Additionally, treatment of cancer patients with PD-1 or PD-L1 inhibitors sometimes results in immune-related adverse events, including the development of hepatitis, dermatitis and colitis, demonstrating the role of PD-1/PD-L1 in human autoimmune reactions.
We believe our PD-L1 therapy may augment PD-L1 expression on cell types similar to those that endogenously express it, and by reducing immune activation, potentially reduce the clinical manifestations of a variety of autoimmune diseases.
PD-L1 (mRNA-6981): Our product concept
We intend to induce expression of PD-L1 on myeloid cells to send a tolerizing signal to immune cells in their environment in order to treat autoimmune diseases.
Our intent is to use our platform to influence myeloid cells, including dendritic cells, to provide additional co-inhibitory signals by augmenting endogenous expression of PD-L1. We believe that this tolerizing signal to lymphocytes may limit autoreactivity in the context of ongoing autoimmune pathology without severe and global suppression of the immune system. Given that our platform allows us to modify myeloid cells in situ, our approach to the creation of a tolerogenic environment may provide unique benefits in treating autoimmune diseases by seeking to restore immune homeostasis. We believe the platform technologies used have already been substantially validated in humans; mRNA-6981 employs the same delivery technology used in clinical trials for our chikungunya antibody therapeutic, mRNA-1944. Results with mRNA-1944 demonstrate predictable dose-dependent pharmacology that translated effectively from preclinical species into humans.
PD-L1 (mRNA-6981): Preclinical information
We have observed disease modification in a range of preclinical models.
We have investigated the effect of mRNA-6981 in multiple disease models. In one example, we evaluated mRNA-6981 in a rat model of arthritis. Animals were given a single injection of chicken collagen type II in incomplete Freund’s adjuvant in order to induce chronic arthritis-like symptoms. mRNA-6981 was dosed subcutaneously at four times per week and compared to a negative PBS control and a positive control of daily high dose dexamethasone (Dex). Arthritis-like symptoms included paw swelling and joint rigidity, which were scored as a proxy for disease severity. Compared to animals treated with PBS, animals treated with PD-L1 mRNA presented with consistently less severe disease similar to animals treated daily with dexamethasone for at least three weeks.
Collagen-Induced Arthritis model
We have investigated mRNA-6981 in a range of other preclinical models of autoimmune and related diseases, including type 1 diabetes, colitis and graft-versus-host disease, and observed disease-modifying activity.
PD-L1 (mRNA-6981): Clinical plan
We are planning a Phase 1 clinical trial for patients with type 1 autoimmune hepatitis (AIH).
AIH is an autoimmune condition involving inflammation in the liver, which over time can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. Type 1 AIH is characterized by a specific autoantibody profile and afflicts more than 75,000 patients in the U.S. Type 1 AIH is typically treated with steroids and azathioprine but some patients either do not respond to these treatments or are unable to tolerate them and are therefore in need of alternatives. A specific role for PD-L1 therapy in treating type 1 AIH is supported by clinical observations in cancer patients receiving PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor treatment: a noted adverse event is the development of AIH, which responds to discontinuation of checkpoint inhibitor therapy and treatment with corticosteroids. Checkpoint inhibitor-induced AIH has an identical histological and clinical manifestation compared to non-drug induced type 1 AIH. We believe that mRNA-6981 may provide benefit to type 1 AIH patients by increasing PD-L1 expression and plan to pursue proof-of-concept in type 1 AIH as a first step to addressing a range of autoimmune indications. We are planning a clinical trial to evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacology, and duration of the effect of mRNA-6981 in type 1 AIH patients refractory or intolerant to the standard of care.
IL-2 Mutein (mRNA-6231)
IL-2 is a critical cytokine for Treg activation and expansion.
Cytokines are potent modulators of the immune system, directing function and homeostasis. IL-2 is critically important to T cell survival and function. IL-2 acts through a receptor complex that can be dimeric, IL-2Rß (CD122) plus the common γ chain (CD132), or trimeric, which is formed through the addition of IL-2Rα (CD25) to the dimeric form. The trimeric form has 10-fold to 100-fold greater affinity for IL-2. Under low or homeostatic IL-2 conditions, those cells which preferentially express the trimeric receptor, or IL-2R, such as Tregs and very recently activated effector T cells, are activated. Conversely, those cells that express the dimeric form, such as naïve or antigen-experienced cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells (NK cells), are only activated by much higher concentrations of IL-2. Tregs play an obligate role in maintaining peripheral tolerance through the control of effector T cell responses, and several strategies are being developed to exploit IL-2 to treat autoimmune disease by selectively enhancing Treg function. These include recombinant protein forms of IL-2/mAb complexes, IL-2 Muteins and low-dose IL-2.
IL-2 Mutein (mRNA-6231): Our product concept
We intend to utilize subcutaneous mRNA administration to produce a version of IL-2 that is potentially longer acting and more selective for the trimeric IL-2 receptor (IL-2R) in order to treat autoimmune diseases.
IL-2-based therapeutics are being clinically evaluated for a wide range of immune-mediated disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, graft versus host disease, inflammatory bowel diseases, and autoimmune hepatitis. We believe that our platform can be exploited to produce a modified IL-2 for the treatment of autoimmune conditions. Our modified IL-2 is engineered with mutations that selectively decrease binding to the dimeric IL-2 receptor present on CD4+ and CD8+ T effector cells and NK cells, and increase reliance upon CD25 of the trimeric IL-2 receptor complex to trigger the signaling cascade in regulatory T cells. Our modified IL-2 is also expressed as a fusion protein to extend its half-life in the serum. This will be the first demonstration of subcutaneous administration of the delivery technology that is also used in clinical trials for our chikungunya antibody therapeutic, mRNA-1944.
IL-2 Mutein (mRNA-6231): Preclinical information
We have observed preferential expansion of Tregs in non-human primates.
Preclinical studies have been conducted using mouse homologs as well as cynomolgus monkeys. In one example, monkeys were dosed subcutaneously with a single dose of mRNA-6231 and T cells in the peripheral blood were monitored on days 1, 3, 5, 8, and 14. The percentage of Tregs (CD4+ T cells that were also FoxP3+) increased about 12-fold (average across N=4 animals) at their maximum (day 8 post-dosing). Conversely, the percentage of activated CD8+ conventional T cells (that co-express CD25) did not significantly increase over baseline at any time during the monitoring period, illustrating the preferential expansion of Tregs by the IL-2 Mutein.
IL-2 Mutein (mRNA-6231): Clinical plan
We are planning a Phase 1 clinical trial in normal healthy volunteers to assess safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.
We plan to conduct a Phase 1 dose escalation study of mRNA-6231 in adult healthy volunteers. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the safety and tolerability of mRNA-6231, to assess the pharmacodynamic response through Treg selective expansion, activation and duration, and to characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of mRNA-6231 in expressing IL-2 in the serum following subcutaneous administration.
CANCER VACCINES MODALITY
We designed our cancer vaccines modality to treat or cure cancer by enhancing immune responses to tumor neoantigens, defined below. This modality has two programs currently for neoantigen vaccines, a personalized cancer vaccine, or PCV, program, and a vaccine against neoantigens related to a common oncogene called KRAS, both conducted in collaboration with Merck. The goal of a cancer vaccine is to safely expose the patient’s immune system to tumor related antigens, known as neoantigens, to enable the immune system to elicit a more effective antitumor response. Our cancer vaccines modality is focused on the use of mRNA to express neoantigens found in a particular tumor in order to elicit an immune response via T cells that recognize those neoantigens, and therefore the tumor. These neoantigens can either be unique to a patient, as in the case of our personalized cancer vaccine program, or can be related to a driver oncogene found across subsets of patients, as in the case of our KRAS vaccine program.
More than 1.8 million new cancer cases and approximately 600,000 deaths due to cancer were predicted in the United States for 2020, according to the NIH. Despite the recent success of checkpoint inhibitors, the majority of patients with the most common types of epithelial cancer still do not benefit from checkpoint inhibitors, as many patients still have incomplete or no response to currently available therapies. In addition, treatment resistance is thought to arise from a number of mechanisms, principally the local immunosuppressive effects of cancer cells, which prevent either access to or recognition by T cells.
Recent breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy, such as checkpoint inhibitors and chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapies, have demonstrated that powerful antitumor responses can be achieved by activating antigen specific T cells. We believe one approach to improve the efficacy of checkpoint inhibitors is to develop vaccines that increase both the number and antitumor activity of a patient’s T cells that recognize tumor neoantigens.
Cancer vaccines: Product features
We believe that mRNA technology is an attractive approach for cancer vaccines for many reasons, including:
•mRNA vaccines can deliver multiple neoantigens concatenated in a single mRNA molecule. We currently encode up to 34 neoantigens in one of our personalized cancer vaccines (mRNA-4157), and four KRAS mutations in our KRAS vaccine (mRNA-5671). Given that a T cell response against a single antigen has the potential to eradicate cancer cells, we believe that delivering multiple neoantigens could increase the probability of a successful treatment outcome for a patient.
•mRNA encoding for neoantigens is translated and processed by patients’ endogenous cellular mechanisms for presentation to the immune system. Neoantigen peptides are then potentially processed in multiple ways to give rise to different, smaller peptides for presentation by the immune system. We believe this endogenous antigen production and presentation has the potential to drive a more effective immune response.
•mRNA vaccines can be efficiently personalized. The shared features of mRNA, combined with our investments in automated manufacturing technology, enable us to manufacture individual cGMP batches of personalized cancer vaccines rapidly, in parallel. For example, we have demonstrated the ability to manufacture and release a “custom-designed” vaccine for an individual patient within 60 days of sequencing the patient’s tumor for the personalized cancer vaccine program (mRNA-4157).
Personalized Cancer Vaccines (PCV) (mRNA-4157)
Our personalized cancer vaccine, or PCV, is currently being evaluated in a Phase 1 and a Phase 2 study. The Phase 1 trial is assessing mRNA-4157 alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA®. The Phase 2 trial is assessing the mRNA-4157 in combination with KEYTRUDA vs. KEYTRUDA alone. (KEYTRUDA is a registered trademark of Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.)
PCV (mRNA-4157): Our product concept
As tumors grow they acquire mutations, some of which create new protein sequences, or neoantigens, that can be presented on HLA molecules in the tumor and recognized as non-self by T cells. These neoantigens can be shared, as in mRNA-5671, or are completely unique to an individual patient’s tumor. In addition to the neoantigens being unique and patient specific, the presentation of those neoantigens is also dependent on a patient’s specific HLA type. Identification of patient-specific HLA type and tumor neoantigens through next generation sequencing paired with our proprietary, in silico design of each patient’s mRNA
vaccine and rapid manufacturing for a specific patient allows us to rapidly deliver a completely unique and personalized medicine to patients.
Our personalized cancer vaccine program, mRNA-4157, consists of an mRNA that encodes up to 34 neoantigens, predicted to elicit both class I (CD8) and class II (CD4) responses, designed against each individual patient’s tumor mutations and specific to their HLA type. The neoantigens are encoded in a single mRNA sequence and formulated in our proprietary LNPs designed for intramuscular injection. The mRNA sequence is then manufactured using an automated workflow to enable a rapid turnaround time.
PCV (mRNA-4157): Clinical data
The Phase 1 trial is an open-label, multicenter study to assess the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of mRNA-4157 alone in subjects with resected solid tumors and in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor, pembrolizumab (marketed in the United States as KEYTRUDA), in subjects with resected and unresected solid tumors. mRNA-4157 is administered on the first day of each 21-day cycle for a maximum of nine doses. mRNA-4157 is administered as monotherapy (Part A) or in combination with pembrolizumab (Parts, B, C, and D) in the United States. Studies have shown mRNA-4157 to be well tolerated at all dose levels. The majority of adverse events from mRNA-4157 have been low grade and reversible. Encouraging data emerging from an expansion arm in patients with head and neck cancer has recently caused us to increase the size of that cohort, which continues to recruit trial participants.
The randomized Phase 2 trial will assess whether post-operative adjuvant therapy with mRNA-4157 in combination with pembrolizumab, improves relapse-free survival compared to pembrolizumab alone.
KRAS vaccine (mRNA-5671)
Finding oncogenic driver mutations that encode targetable T cell epitopes has considerable therapeutic implications. Point mutations in the KRAS gene occur in about 22% of human cancers, such as colorectal, non-small cell lung and pancreatic cancers. It has been reported that KRAS-mutant neoantigens can be presented on certain human HLAs. We have designed an mRNA to generate and present KRAS neoantigens to the immune system from the four most common KRAS mutations. The Phase 1 trial is being conducted by Merck and is currently ongoing in the United States.
KRAS vaccine (mRNA-5671): Our product concept
Oncogenic driver mutations that encode targetable T cell neoantigens have considerable potential therapeutic implications: (1) driver mutations are subject to positive selection, as they confer survival advantages for the tumor, and (2) such neoantigens could be shared between patients, enabling an easier approach to developing and manufacturing such therapeutic or curative interventions.
KRAS is a frequently mutated oncogene in epithelial cancers, primarily lung, colorectal cancer, or CRC, and pancreatic cancers. The four most prevalent KRAS mutations associated with these malignancies are G12D, G12V, G13D, and G12C, which constitute 80% to 90% of KRAS mutations.
KRAS vaccine (mRNA-5671): Clinical plan
Merck is conducting an open-label, multi-center, dose-escalation and dose expansion Phase 1 study to evaluate the safety and tolerability of mRNA-5671 administered as an intramuscular injection both as a monotherapy and in combination with pembrolizumab.
INTRATUMORAL IMMUNO-ONCOLOGY MODALITY
We designed our intratumoral immuno-oncology modality to treat or cure cancer by transforming the tumor microenvironment to drive anti-cancer T cell responses against tumors. Our mRNA technology within this modality allows for the combination of multiple therapeutics that can be directly injected into a tumor with the goal of activating immune cells to kill cancer cells in the injected tumor as well as in distal tumors, known as the abscopal effect. Intratumoral administration allows for localized effect of these therapeutics that could be toxic if administered systemically. This exploratory modality has three development candidates.
As noted above, more than 1.8 million new cancer cases and approximately 600,000 deaths due to cancer were predicted in the United States for 2020, according to the NIH. There have been several advances in the treatment of cancer through immune-mediated therapies in recent years. However, the outlook for many patients with advanced cancer remains poor, especially in tumors that have little immune system engagement and are sometimes termed immunologically “cold.” We aim to activate the tumor microenvironment with our mRNA therapeutic candidates, in conjunction with a checkpoint inhibitor, to activate the immune system against these otherwise immunologically cold tumors.
Intratumoral immuno-oncology: Our approach
We believe our approach to immuno-oncology using mRNA medicines could complement checkpoint inhibitors and has several advantages over recombinant protein-based drugs, including:
•mRNA focuses and limits exposure of immune stimulatory proteins. One of the intrinsic properties of mRNA is its transient nature. This allows for short exposure of the proteins encoded by the mRNA in the target tissue, thereby potentially enhancing tolerability.
•mRNA can produce membrane associated immune stimulatory proteins. In contrast to recombinant proteins, mRNA administered to a tumor site can lead to the production of either secreted or membrane proteins, depending on the mRNA sequence.
•Multiplexing of mRNA allows access to multiple immune stimulatory pathways. The ability to combine multiple mRNAs to express multiple proteins allows for activation of several immune pathways simultaneously. For example, OX40L/IL-23/IL-36γ (Triplet) (mRNA-2752) encodes for two secreted cytokines (IL-23 and IL-36γ) and one membrane protein (OX40L).
•mRNA sequences can be engineered to reduce off-target effects. mRNA sequences can be designed to minimize translation in off-target tissues. For immune-stimulatory proteins this can potentially prevent toxicities.
•Local administration of mRNA can create a concentration gradient for encoded proteins. mRNA administered intratumorally allows for the local production of encoded immune-stimulatory proteins, such as cytokines. The mRNA and encoded protein are expected to form a concentration gradient that decreases as a function of the distance from the tumor, thereby potentially lowering undesirable systemic effects and increasing immune-stimulatory effects close to the tumor.
There have been several recent advances in the treatment of cancer through activation of the immune system. However, many patients with advanced stages of cancer respond to few therapies and continue to face a poor outlook. Alternative strategies to activate an immunologic anti-tumor response, while at the same time reducing systemic toxicities, are required. To this end, we have developed an investigational mRNA therapeutic coding for wildtype OX40 ligand, or OX40L, protein, a membrane protein normally expressed on antigen presenting cells upon immune stimulation that augments an activated immune response. mRNA-2416 encodes for wild-type OX40L which is a membrane protein, a class of proteins that we believe cannot be manufactured for administration to tumor cells by recombinant technologies. mRNA-2416 is being developed for the treatment of solid tumors following local intratumoral injection. We are currently sponsoring a Phase 1/2 trial that is ongoing in the United States, which includes Phase 1 dose escalation cohorts of mRNA-2416 as monotherapy and in combination with durvalumab, followed by a Phase 2 expansion cohort in patients with advanced ovarian carcinoma in combination with durvalumab.
OX40L (mRNA-2416): Our product concept
Our product consists of mRNA coding for the human sequence of OX40L formulated in our proprietary LNP. mRNA-2416 was designed to decrease the amount of protein that could be made in hepatocytes through incorporation of a microRNA binding site, thus potentially reducing off-target effects and resulting in better tolerability. Following intratumoral injection, a specific anti-tumor immune response is expected to be induced via proliferation and migration of T cell clones with specificity for the cancer that may also result in systemic anti-tumor responses.
OX40L (mRNA-2416): Clinical data
The Phase 1/2 trial for mRNA-2416 is an open-label, multicenter study of repeated intratumoral injections of mRNA-2416 as a monotherapy and in combination with durvalumab in patients with advanced relapsed/refractory solid tumor malignancies and lymphomas in the United States and Israel. The objectives of this Phase 1/2 study include evaluating safety and tolerability of mRNA-2416 administered intratumorally, and to define the maximum tolerated dose and recommended dose for expansion alone and in combination with durvalumab. Other endpoints include pharmacokinetic analyses as well as assessment of biomarkers of immunological response in tumor. The dose levels being tested in the monotherapy arm of the trial were 1 µg, 2 µg, 4 µg, and 8 µg. The monotherapy arm of the study has been completed and we are not planning an expansion cohort of mRNA-2416 as a monotherapy. We have completed a dose-finding cohort at 4 µg mRNA-2416 given in combination with durvalumab (IMFINZI®) and are currently enrolling a Phase 2 expansion cohort in ovarian cancer.
As of January 1, 2021, 60 patients were dosed with mRNA-2416 (39 patients in monotherapy and 21 patients in combination with durvalumab). As of February 12, 2020, safety was reported on 39 patients treated with monotherapy mRNA-2416. mRNA-2416 has been tolerable at all dose levels with no dose-limiting toxicities reported and the majority of treatment related adverse events being grade 1 or 2. We have observed systemic injection related reactions in seven patients, all of which have been reversible.
Of the evaluable cases for patients dosed with mRNA-2416 as of November 13, 2019, 14 achieved a best overall response rate (BOR) of stable disease, of these patients 6 had stable disease for ≥14 weeks; 15 patients had progressive disease per RECIST 1.1. Clinical observations include a reduction in injected tumor size in two patients with ovarian cancer, one patient with breast cancer and one patient with pseudomyxoma peritonei.
OX40L/IL-23/IL-36γ (Triplet) (mRNA-2752): Clinical update
Despite recent advances in immune-mediated therapies for cancer, the outlook for many patients with advanced cancer is poor. We are developing Triplet (mRNA-2752) and other programs to drive anti-cancer T cell responses by transforming cold tumor microenvironments into productive, “hotter” immune landscapes with local intratumoral therapies. Triplet (mRNA-2752) utilizes the intrinsic advantage of mRNA to multiplex and to produce membrane and secreted proteins with mRNA in a single investigational medicine. Triplet (mRNA-2752) includes three mRNAs encoding human OX40L, interleukin 23, or IL-23, and interleukin 36 gamma, or IL-36γ, that are encapsulated in our proprietary LNP and administered intratumorally. OX40L is a membrane protein, whereas IL-23 and IL-36γ are secreted cytokines. We believe our approach has the advantage of localized high concentration gradients of IL-23 and IL-36γ compared to recombinant proteins administered systemically or intratumorally. Additionally, the mRNA for OX40L encodes for the wild type membrane protein, which we believe recombinant protein technologies cannot enable. The combination of OX40L, IL-23, and IL-36γ has shown robust activity in preclinical cancer models and is synergistic with checkpoint inhibitors. In addition, this combination elicits an anti-tumor response on distal tumors (via the “abscopal effect”), as well as treated tumors in preclinical studies. A Phase 1 trial of Triplet (mRNA-2752) is ongoing.
OX40L/IL-23/IL-36γ (Triplet) (mRNA-2752): Our product concept
We are developing Triplet (mRNA-2752) for the treatment of advanced or metastatic solid tumor malignancies or lymphoma as a single agent or in combination with checkpoint inhibitors. Triplet (mRNA-2752) includes three mRNAs encoding OX40L, IL-23, and IL-36γ, encapsulated in our proprietary LNP. Triplet (mRNA-2752) is designed to make these proteins in cells of the local tumor environment or lymph node. Our approach potentially has the advantage of localized gradients of two important cytokines IL-23 and IL-36γ, rather than a systemic administration or intratumoral injection of cytokine proteins that would lead to quick diffusion away from the tumor. Additionally, the mRNA for OX40L encodes for the wild type membrane protein, which would be challenging to administer to either a tumor or systemically as a recombinant membrane protein capable of co-stimulation of T cells. mRNA for IL-23 produces a single-chain fusion protein of the IL-12B and IL-23A subunits, with a linker between the subunits. mRNA for IL-36γ produces a protein with introduced signal peptide to bypass a need for upstream processing for release and activity. In addition, all three mRNA were designed to decrease the amount of protein that could be made in hepatocytes through incorporation of microRNA binding sites, thus potentially reducing off-target effects and resulting in better tolerability.
OX40L/IL-23/IL-36γ (Triplet) (mRNA-2752): Clinical update
We have an ongoing Phase 1 study that is designed as an open-label, multicenter study of intratumoral injections of Triplet (mRNA-2752) alone or in combination with durvalumab (anti-PD-L1) with sites in the United States and Israel. The objectives of this study include:
•assessment of safety and tolerability of Triplet (mRNA-2752) administered alone and in combination with durvalumab;
•define the maximum tolerated dose, or MTD, and recommended dose for expansion, or RDE, for intratumoral injections of Triplet (mRNA-2752) alone and in combination with durvalumab; and
•assessment of anti-tumor activity, protein expression in tumors, and pharmacokinetics, and exploratory endpoints that include assessment of immunological responses.
The study consists of two arms: Arm A, Triplet monotherapy and Arm B, Triplet in combination with durvalumab. There are dose escalation and dose confirmation parts for each study arm followed by a dose expansions for Arm B. mRNA-2752 will be evaluated at 0.25, 0.5, 1, 2, 4, and 8 µg. mRNA-2752 is administered once every two weeks for cycle 1, followed by once every four weeks for cycles 2 through 6. Durvalumab is administered every four weeks. Biopsy and blood samples to be collected pre- and post-treatment with mRNA in both dose escalation and dose expansion to assess protein expression and changes in tumor immune landscape.
As of January 1, 2021, 44 patients have been dosed with mRNA-2752, including 19 patients in monotherapy and 25 patients in combination with durvalumab. Safety in this study was reported as of April 8, 2020, on 29 cases, including 17 patients treated with mRNA-2752 monotherapy and 12 patients in combination with durvalumab. Across dose levels tested, study treatment has been well tolerated with no dose-limiting toxicities, one patient with Grade 3 toxicity (at 4 µg dose level) and no Grade 4/5 toxicities related to treatment. One partial response with an 81% decrease in target lesions has been observed in a squamous cell bladder cancer patient on the combination arm; stable disease has been observed in nine patients (five on mRNA-2752 monotherapy and four treated with durvalumab combination). Tumor shrinkage was observed in seven patients in injected and/or un-injected target lesions (three on monotherapy and four on combination).
As of April 8, 2020, biomarker data from the first eight cohorts (monotherapy at dose levels between 0.25 µg– 4 µg; combination at 0.25 µg and 0.5 µg) demonstrated increased IL-23 and IL-36g protein expression, evidence of a pro-inflammatory effect of treatment including elevated interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha and PD-L1. Data consistent with demonstration of proof of mechanism. All post-treatment plasma cytokine levels evaluated were well below what has been suggested as clinically toxic levels for these cytokines in cytokine release syndromes. Significant increases in PD-L1 protein levels predominantly in immune cells in the tumor microenvironment were observed at days 2, 15 and 29 post-treatment demonstrating the sustained immunomodulatory effect of treatment. In the patient with the partial response, increased T cells, particularly of proliferating CD8+ cytotoxic T cells were observed post treatment.
Another strategy for cancer patients with immunologically cold tumors is to transform the tumor microenvironment by introducing pro-inflammatory cytokines directly into tumors or draining lymph nodes. In collaboration with AstraZeneca, we are developing MEDI1191, which is an mRNA for IL-12 encapsulated in our proprietary LNP to be delivered intratumorally. Systemic administration of recombinant IL-12 protein was poorly tolerated in early clinical trials and exhibited generally low response rates. MEDI1191 can enhance the immune response by positively impacting both antigen presenting cells and T cells, and local, intratumoral expression of IL-12 can potentially improve tolerability compared to systemic protein treatments. AstraZeneca is conducting a Phase 1 clinical trial for MEDI1191, which is to be co-administered with a checkpoint inhibitor.
IL-12 (MEDI1191): Our product concept
Intratumoral delivery of IL-12 has been observed to be a feasible approach to overcome the toxicity associated with systemic IL-12 administration. For example, intratumoral delivery of an IL-12 containing DNA plasmid by injection followed by electroporation has shown promising activity in combination with pembrolizumab in patients with metastatic melanoma. Such an approach may be limited to accessible lesions amenable to electroporation. In contrast, it may be more feasible to inject our mRNA delivered by our proprietary LNP into both accessible and visceral tumors.
MEDI1191 is being developed for the treatment of advanced or metastatic solid tumors in combination with a checkpoint inhibitor. MEDI1191 consists of our proprietary LNP encapsulating an mRNA for human IL-12B (p40) and IL-12A (p35) subunits. The mRNA produces a single-chain fusion protein of the IL-12B and IL-12A subunits, with a linker between the subunits. The mRNA sequence has been engineered to enhance protein production and is designed to decrease the amount of protein that might be made in hepatocytes for better tolerability.
IL-12 (MEDI1191): Preclinical information
We have conducted several preclinical studies in which we observed activity with our approach
Our preclinical studies were conducted with a mouse homolog of IL-12. In a tumor model that we have characterized as completely refractory to checkpoint therapy and associated with an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, treatment with IL-12 transformed the tumor microenvironment, with notable activation of natural killer and dendritic cells, and an increase in cytotoxic lymphocytes. In this checkpoint inhibitor refractory mouse model of cancer, a single dose of IL-12 mRNA yielded around 30% complete response rates as an mRNA monotherapy as shown in panel A below and was synergistically active with systemically administered anti-PD-L1 antibody, or α PD-L1, demonstrating complete response rates of > 70%, as shown in panel B of the figure below. The x-axis represents days after subcutaneous implantation of MC38-R tumor cells. Test articles were administered on Day 11 for mRNA treatments and on Days 11, 14, 18, and 21 for antibody treatments. All antibody treatments were administered at 20 mg/kg. There were 15 mice per group in this study. Survival curves were plotted by considering any reason a mouse was removed from study, including the predetermined tumor burden endpoint of 2,000 mm3, as a survival event. NTC is a non-translating control mRNA. Synergy of locally administered IL-12 mRNA with systemic α PD-L1 treatment was also observed on distal tumors that were not directly administered mRNA.
Panel A Panel B
IL-12 (MEDI1191): Clinical plan
We are responsible for generating a preclinical data package to support the filing of an IND and clinical trial authorization (CTA) and clinical supply for early clinical development. AstraZeneca is leading the early clinical development. AstraZeneca is currently enrolling an open-label multicenter Phase 1 clinical trial of intratumoral injections of MEDI1191 alone and in combination with the checkpoint inhibitor, durvalumab.
LOCALIZED REGENERATIVE THERAPEUTICS MODALITY
We designed our localized regenerative therapeutics modality to develop mRNA medicines to address injured or diseased tissues. Our mRNA technology in this modality allows for the local production of proteins that provide a therapeutic benefit in the targeted tissue. The development of our program in this modality, AZD8601, for the local production of VEGF-A, is being led by our strategic collaborator, AstraZeneca. This program completed a Phase 1a/b clinical trial in which we observed both a dose-dependent protein production and a pharmacologic effect, as measured by changes in local blood flow in patients. We believe this data provides clinical proof of mechanism for our mRNA technology outside of the vaccine setting.
Localized regenerative therapeutics: Opportunity
There are multiple applications for tissue regeneration. With AstraZeneca, we have focused on ischemic heart failure for the first program. Coronary artery disease, the primary cause of ischemic heart failure, affects the arteries providing blood supply to the cardiac muscle. In 2015, coronary artery disease resulted in 366,000 deaths in the United States, and 8.9 million deaths globally.
Localized regenerative therapeutics: Product features
We believe our approach to localized regenerative therapeutics using mRNA has several advantages over alternative approaches, including:
•mRNA can be administered locally to produce the desired protein for an extended duration. Local exposure to the therapeutic protein encoded by our mRNA is sustained by the ongoing translation of the mRNA into protein, often from hours to days. This pharmacokinetic profile closely mimics the optimal tissue exposure profile for regenerative applications and cannot be achieved by injections of recombinant proteins that rapidly diffuse out of the tissue after injection.
•Local administration of mRNA allows for focused activity. mRNA administered to a specific tissue or organ should allow for local production of the encoded protein, which could lead to lower levels of encoded protein in distant or systemic locations. This could help to prevent potential toxicity from production of the encoded protein outside of the targeted tissue.
•mRNA allows for dose-dependent and repeated production of the encoded protein. mRNA therapies should also allow for dose titration and repeat dosing. This provides several advantages over gene therapy. Gene therapy typically results in a permanent change to cellular DNA that may result in uncontrolled or constant production of the desired protein in local tissue or in distant sites, which could cause local or systemic side effects. Further, some gene therapy delivery vehicles are associated with immune responses that limit the ability to repeat dose, preventing dose titration.
Addressing ischemic heart failure—VEGF-A as a localized therapeutic in collaboration with AstraZeneca
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for one in every four deaths, and is often due to the inability of adults to regenerate heart tissue. Current approved therapies do not specifically address heart regeneration. Previous attempts at cardiac regeneration have included stem cell grafting and gene therapy, but have faced challenges with safety or efficacy. In collaboration with AstraZeneca, we are pioneering a unique approach to treating ischemic heart failure, a condition where the cardiac muscle does not get enough blood supply to perform its contractile function. Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A, or VEGF-A, can promote cardiac tissue revascularization. The goal of this program is to promote recovery of cardiac function through partial tissue regeneration. The mRNA in this program is in a saline formulation without LNPs and is expected to act locally. Our strategic collaborator AstraZeneca has conducted a Phase 1a/b clinical study in diabetic patients in Europe. The study has met its primary objectives of describing safety and tolerability and secondary objectives of dose-dependent protein production and changes in blood flow. AstraZeneca has moved this program to a Phase 2a trial that is being conducted in Europe and is designed to test safety and tolerability of epicardial injections for patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting surgery.
VEGF-A (AZD8601): Disease overview
VEGF-A can promote blood vessel growth to potentially address ischemic heart failure
Several treatments are available for patients with ischemic heart failure. Current treatments include revascularization of the coronary arteries to relieve symptoms and improve cardiac function and therapies that reduce blood pressure or potentially help eliminate excess fluids in congested tissues, including: beta-blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, angiotensin II inhibitors, and aldosterone receptor blockers as diuretics. However, adult humans are unable to regenerate myocardium tissue following injury and the treatment options described above cannot compensate for this.
VEGF-A is a potent angiogenic factor that promotes growth of blood vessels. Preclinical data suggests that expression of this growth factor in the ischemic heart could increase blood flow and partially restore cardiac function.
VEGF-A (AZD8601): Our product concept
Local delivery of VEGF-A mRNA to increase local concentration of VEGF-A protein while reducing systemic distribution of therapeutic VEGF-A protein
VEGF-A protein acts as a powerful promoter of blood vessel growth. Systemic injection of VEGF-A protein increases VEGF-A exposure throughout the body, which can lead to side effects, but is very short-lived in circulation. Therefore, any therapy involving VEGF-A needs to be localized to elevate local protein concentration and drive revascularization while minimizing systemic side effects. AstraZeneca has opted to pursue the localized application of VEGF-A mRNA in a simple saline formulation in the heart muscle to elevate local protein concentration for longer periods due to increased local protein production. This potentially allows for an extended pharmacodynamic effect at the specific site of injection compared to systemic or local administration of a recombinant protein version of VEGF-A. Some of the early animal work for mRNA VEGF-A was published by our academic co-founder Dr. Kenneth Chien in Nature Biotechnology in 2013, showing improved cardiac function with increased survival with treatment.
VEGF-A (AZD8601): Preclinical information
AstraZeneca has observed the activity of VEGF-A for ischemic heart failure in several preclinical animal models
Preclinical studies have been conducted at AstraZeneca in models of ischemic heart failure. In mouse, rat, and pig models of myocardial infarction, direct injection in the heart muscle (myocardium) of VEGF-A mRNA led to elevated cardiac VEGF-A protein levels and improved cardiac function. The data have been published by AstraZeneca in Molecular Therapy in 2018.
VEGF-A (AZD8601): Clinical data
AstraZeneca has completed a Phase 1a/b trial in Germany; A Phase 2a trial is currently ongoing in Finland and Germany
The Phase1a/b clinical trial for the AZD8601 program has met its primary objectives of describing safety and tolerability and secondary objectives of protein production and changes in blood flow post AZD8601 administration. AstraZeneca has moved this program to a Phase 2a trial.
The Phase 1a/b study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in men with type 2 diabetes mellitus conducted in Europe. VEGF-A mRNA was administered by intradermal injection into the forearm skin in single ascending doses. The primary objective was to evaluate the safety and tolerability of the drug product into the forearm skin, with safety follow-up for six months.
The study was divided into Part A (single ascending-dose cohorts) and Part B (pharmacodynamic cohort). There were three treatment regimens in Part A. Regimens were either AZD8601 at site 1 and placebo at site 2, placebo at site 1 and AZD8601 at site 2, or placebo at both sites. Each regimen comprised six 50 µL injections at one site and six 50 µL injections at a second site on the forearm. In part B, the regimen comprised one 50 µL intradermal injection of either AZD8601 or placebo at each of four sites on the forearm.
There were 27 patients in Part A with 18 receiving AZD8601 in at least one site of the forearm and 9 patients receiving placebo. There were three dose cohorts in Part A, each with 9 patients. In the first cohort, AZD8601 dose was at 24 µg per patient (4 µg per injection). The AZD8601 dose was increased to 72 µg and 360 µg in the next two dose cohorts. There were 15 patients in Part B receiving AZD8601 in at least two sites on the forearm per patient. In Part B, each patient received 200 µg of AZD8601 or placebo.
VEGF-A protein post injection of mRNA was produced at a high level, above the set expected threshold, as shown in the figure below. Expression was measured by skin microdialysis. At each sampling time, mean VEGF-A protein levels across all mRNA treated sites from patients across all cohorts were higher than that of placebo up to the 24-26 hour time point. Data are means with error bars showing standard error of the mean, or SEM. Asterisk indicates p-value <0.05.
VEGF-A protein levels in patients in Part A of the Phase 1a/b trial
The bioactivity of the VEGF-A protein post injection of mRNA was observed by an increase in blood flow at injection sites up to 7 days following a single injection, as shown in the figure below. Measurements were made using laser doppler imaging 7 and 14 days after administration (study part A, n = 27). Data shown are means with error bars showing SEM. Asterisk indicates p-value <0.05.
VEGF-A led to increase in blood flow at day 7 and day 14 in patients in the Phase 1a/b trial
As shown above, administration of AZD8601 demonstrated protein production and changes in local blood flow in diabetic patients. Tolerability of our mRNA injected intradermally was demonstrated for all dose levels. The only causally treatment-related adverse events were mild injection-site reactions, occurring in 32 of 33 participants receiving VEGF-A mRNA across both parts of the study design. All adverse events of injection-site reaction were of mild intensity. No deaths, serious adverse events, or adverse events leading to discontinuation occurred. The program is currently in a Phase 2a clinical trial. It is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center, Phase 2a study to evaluate safety and tolerability of epicardial injections of AZD8601 during coronary artery bypass grafting surgery. Some of the outcomes to be monitored in the Phase 2a study include adverse and serious adverse events, electrocardiogram, or ECG, and LVEF. The study is being conducted in Europe. The study is intentionally designed to provide initial safety and tolerability data in about 24 coronary artery bypass patients.
SYSTEMIC INTRACELLULAR THERAPEUTICS MODALITY
We designed our systemic intracellular therapeutics modality to increase levels of intracellular proteins, using cells in the human body to produce proteins located in the cytosol or specific organelles of the cell to achieve a therapeutic effect in one or more tissues or cell types. The goal of this modality is to provide intracellular proteins, such as intracellular enzymes and organelle-specific proteins, as safe, tolerable, and efficacious therapies. Our initial focus within this exploratory modality is on rare genetic diseases. This modality currently has four programs: PA, MMA, PKU and GSD1a.
Systemic intracellular therapeutics: Opportunity
Systemically delivered, intracellular therapeutics focus on areas currently not addressable with recombinant proteins, which are typically administered systemically and cannot reach the inside of the cell. Objectives for potential new therapies in this area include, for example, increasing the levels of:
•intracellular pathway proteins;
•soluble organelle-specific proteins; and
•organelle-specific membrane proteins.
Systemic intracellular therapeutics: Product features
Systemically delivered, intracellular therapeutics, we believe, would allow us to target areas of biology that cannot be addressed using recombinant proteins.
Our potential advantages in these areas include:
•Using mRNA to encode for intracellular and organelle-specific proteins. Our modality permits the expression of intracellular proteins, including those that must be directly translated and moved into organelles such as mitochondria. The ability of mRNA to produce protein inside of the cell enables production of these protein types that we believe are beyond the reach of recombinant proteins.
•mRNA can produce hard-to-make or complex proteins. For example, some proteins, due to their folding requirements or complexity, are challenging to make using recombinant technologies, but can potentially be produced by human cells using administered mRNA.
•Native post-translational modifications are possible through intracellular protein production using mRNA. mRNA administered to a human cell uses natural secretory pathways inside the cell to make and process the encoded protein. The resulting post-translational modifications, such as glycosylation, are human as opposed to recombinant proteins where these post-translational modifications are native to the non-human cells used for manufacture. These non-human post-translational modifications in recombinant proteins may lead to sub-optimal therapeutic outcomes, side effects and increased immunogenicity.
•mRNA can sustain production of proteins, which can increase exposure to proteins with short half-lives. mRNA can lead to protein production by cells that can last from hours to days depending on design. This feature could increase the levels of short half-life proteins for therapeutic benefit.
•mRNA allows for desirable pharmacology in complex metabolic diseases. Our mRNA technology potentially permits several differentiated pharmacologic features for treating complex metabolic diseases, including the ability to repeat dose as needed, a rapid onset of action, the ability to adjust dose levels real-time based on individual patient needs, and the ability to stop dosing. Gene therapies may also prove to be useful for treating rare genetic diseases; however, mRNA is not limited by pre-existing immunity that may exist for certain gene therapies using viral vectors, and does not localize to the nucleus or require persistent changes to cellular DNA to have the desired effect.
Propionic acidemia (mRNA-3927)
We aim to produce an intracellular, mitochondrial enzyme complex to treat a pediatric metabolic disorder
Propionic acidemia, or PA, is a rare, life-threatening, inherited metabolic disorder due to a defect in the mitochondrial enzyme propionyl-CoA carboxylase, or PCC. It primarily affects the pediatric population. There is no approved therapy for PA, including no approved enzyme replacement therapy, due to the complexity of the enzyme, which comprises six copies each of two different subunits (PCCA and PCCB), and its mitochondrial localization. The only effective treatment for severely affected individuals is liver transplant, aimed at increasing enzyme activity to reduce the occurrence of life-threatening acute metabolic crises. Our platform is uniquely positioned to potentially address this disease by enabling synthesis of this complex enzyme that is localized in the mitochondria of the cell. We are developing an IV-administered mRNA therapeutic comprising two different mRNAs encoding PCCA and PCCB in our proprietary LNP to replace the defective PCC enzyme with functional enzyme in liver and other cells. We have received Rare Pediatric Disease Designation and Orphan Drug Designation from the FDA and Orphan Drug Designation from the European Commission for the PA program. The FDA has also granted Fast Track designation to mRNA-3927. We plan to initiate a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in PA patients in 2021.
Propionic acidemia (mRNA-3927): Disease overview
PA is an inherited metabolism disorder with significant morbidity and mortality and no approved therapy
PA is a serious inborn error of metabolism disorder, closely related to MMA, with significant morbidity and mortality. There are approximately 325-2,000 PA patients in the United States based on estimated birth prevalence (0.2-1.2:100,000 newborns) and mortality rates. The vast majority of patients present with life-threatening metabolic crises during the first days or weeks of life, with mortality rates ranging from 13-53% during the neonatal period. Similar to MMA, the cardinal feature of the disorder is the occurrence of life-threatening acute metabolic decompensations that are more frequent in the first few years of life. Longer term sequelae include cardiac complications (cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias) and severe neurologic complications.
The disorder is caused by a defect or deficiency in PCC, an enzyme that is one step upstream in the same metabolic pathway as the MUT enzyme that is deficient in MMA. PCC is a complex hetero-dodecamer enzyme composed of six alpha subunits (PCCA) and six beta subunits (PCCB). The disorder is autosomal recessive, with PA patients generally having loss-of-function mutations in either PCCA or PCCB (and in rare instances, mutations in both PCCA and PCCB). To date, over 100 mutations have been identified for both PCCA and PCCB genes and, similar to MMA, most of the mutations are private. Also similar to MMA, due to this enzyme deficiency resulting in a metabolic block, the disorder is biochemically characterized by the accumulation of toxic metabolites such as 3-hydroxypropionic acid and 2-methylcitrate, among others, and these metabolites may be used as biomarkers of disease.
There is no approved therapy for PA to treat the underlying defect, including no enzyme replacement therapy, due to the complexity of PCC and mitochondrial localization. Carglumic acid (marketed as Carbaglu) is approved in the EU for the acute treatment of hyperammonemia due to various organic acidemias, including PA. Management of the disorder is otherwise limited to strict dietary restrictions and other supportive measures similar to MMA. Liver transplant is a radical yet effective treatment, with the aim of increasing PCC enzyme activity in liver for severely affected individuals.
Propionic acidemia (mRNA-3927): Our product concept
We are utilizing the strength of our platform to produce a complex enzyme comprising two different proteins that localize to the mitochondria
The ability of our platform to encode for large, multimeric complexes such as PCC and enable production of intracellular, mitochondrial proteins makes mRNA especially suited to potentially address PA. We are developing an IV-administered combination mRNA approach, which contains two mRNAs, one for each of the subunits of PCC (PCCA and PCCB) encapsulated in our proprietary LNP. The intent is to potentially treat the entire PA population, regardless of whether an individual has a defect or deficiency in the PCC alpha or beta subunit. The mRNA sequences have been engineered to improve protein translation and encode enzymatically-active PCC with the proper subcellular localization in the mitochondria.
Propionic acidemia (mRNA-3927): Preclinical information
We have demonstrated activity in a PA mouse model in a long-term repeat dose study
A series of in vitro and in vivo pharmacology studies have been performed to demonstrate preclinical proof-of-concept for the combined PCCA and PCCB mRNA therapy. PCCA and PCCB mRNAs administered in PA patient fibroblasts (both PCCA and PCCB-deficient) showed production of active PCC enzyme with the proper subcellular localization in mitochondria at concentrations above wild-type levels. In vivo studies in PA (PCCA -/- [A138T]) mice have resulted in a dose-dependent increase in hepatic PCC activity with a concomitant decrease in disease biomarkers. Notably, a reduction in plasma ammonia levels was observed 3-4 weeks after a single IV administration (1 mg/kg) of PCCA and PCCB mRNA encapsulated in our proprietary LNP in PA mice (n=4-5/group). The data are shown in panel A of the figure below. Additionally, a 6-month repeat-dose study in PA mice showed decreased heart weight (normalized to body weight) in mice treated with monthly IV administration of PCCA and PCCB mRNA (1 mg/kg) compared to control mRNA (n=6/group). This is shown in panel B of the figure below. Data in both panels is presented as mean ± standard deviation.
Reduction in plasma ammonia with PCCA+PCCB mRNA in PA mouse model study
Decrease in heart weight with PCCA+PCCB mRNA in 6 month repeat dose study in PA mouse model study
In the 6-month repeat dose study in PA mice, a significant and sustained lowering of additional disease biomarkers (e.g., 2-methylcitrate, or 2MC) was observed throughout the duration of the 6-month study. A comparison of 2-methylcitrate levels as a result of monthly IV administration of PCCA and PCCB mRNAs (0.5-1 mg/kg) compared to control mice injected with a control (luciferase) mRNA is shown in the figure below (n=6/group). Data are presented as mean ± standard deviation. The IND-enabling GLP toxicology program for PA (mRNA-3927) has been completed.
Plasma 2-methylcitrate levels with repeat dosing of PCCA+PCCB
mRNA in PA mouse model study
Propionic acidemia (mRNA-3927): Clinical plan
We are conducting a global natural history study and are planning a Phase 1/2 clinical trial
The clinical development plan for mRNA-3927 includes a global, natural history study in MMA and PA that was initiated in 2018 and a Phase 1/2 study in pediatric patients diagnosed with PA planned for early 2021.
We plan to conduct an open-label, multi-center, dose optimization Phase 1/2 study of multiple doses of mRNA-3927 in pediatric patients with PA in North America and Europe. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the safety and tolerability of mRNA-3927 administered via IV infusion, to assess the pharmacodynamic response from changes in plasma biomarkers, and to characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of mRNA-3927.
Methylmalonic acidemia (mRNA-3705)
Program aims to produce an intracellular, mitochondrial enzyme to treat a pediatric, genetic, metabolic disorder
Isolated methylmalonic academia, or MMA, is a rare, life-threatening, inherited metabolic disorder that is primarily caused by a defect in the mitochondrial enzyme methylmalonyl-coenzyme A mutase, or MUT. It primarily affects the pediatric population. There is no approved therapy that addresses the underlying disorder, including no approved enzyme replacement therapy, due to the complexity of the protein and its mitochondrial localization. Liver or combined liver-kidney transplant is one option for severely affected individuals. Our platform may allow the cells in the human body to produce these and other complex mitochondrial enzymes. Therefore, we are developing an IV-administered mRNA encoding MUT in our proprietary LNP, in order to restore this deficient or defective mitochondrial enzyme in the liver and other cells. We have observed preclinical proof-of-concept in two different MMA mouse models, notably with a marked improvement in survival and reduction of biochemical abnormalities in a severe MMA mouse model. We recently ceased development of mRNA-3704 and will return to the clinic with the next generation formulation, mRNA-3705. To date, the new drug product mRNA-3705 has demonstrated greater potency and prolonged lowering of methylmalonic acid in mutase deficient mice when compared to mRNA-3704. mRNA-3705 has received
Rare Pediatric Disease Designation from the FDA. A Phase 1/2 clinical study with mRNA-3705 is in planning and will be initiated in 2021.
Methylmalonic acidemia (mRNA-3705): Disease overview
MMA is a rare, life-threatening pediatric disorder with no approved therapies that address the underlying defect
There are an estimated 500-2,000 MMA MUT deficiency patients in the United States based on estimated birth prevalence (0.3-1.2:100,000 newborns) and mortality rates. Mortality is significant, with mortality rates of 50% for MMA patients with complete MUT deficiency (mut 0) (median age of death 2 years) and 40% for MMA patients with partial MUT deficiency (mut -) (median age of death 4.5 years) reported in a large European study.
MMA mainly affects the pediatric population and usually presents in the first few days or weeks of life. The occurrence of acute metabolic decompensations is the hallmark of the disorder and decompensations are typically more frequent in the first few years of life. Each decompensation is life-threatening and often requires hospitalization and management at an intensive care unit. Surviving patients often suffer from numerous complications including chronic renal failure and neurologic complications such as movement disorders, developmental delays, and seizures. Consequently, the health-related quality of life for MMA patients and their families is significantly impaired.
The disorder is autosomal recessive and primarily caused by loss-of-function mutations in the gene encoding MUT, a mitochondrial enzyme that metabolizes certain proteins and fats, resulting in complete (mut 0) or partial (mut -) enzyme deficiency. There are currently no approved therapies that address the underlying defect for MMA. Carglumic acid (marketed as Carbaglu) is approved in the EU for the acute treatment of hyperammonemia due to various organic acidemias including MMA. Liver transplant and combined liver-kidney transplant have emerged as effective treatment options for severely affected individuals, resulting in substantial reductions in metabolic decompensations and circulating methylmalonic acid concentrations.
Methylmalonic acidemia (mRNA-3705): Our product concept
We are utilizing our ability to produce a complex intracellular enzyme (MUT) that is localized to the mitochondria
MUT is a complex intracellular enzyme that exists as a homodimer, and requires mitochondrial localization and engagement with its cofactor (a derivative of vitamin B12) to be enzymatically active. mRNA has the capability to encode any type of protein, including a functional, intracellular protein that is trafficked to the proper subcellular localization within target cells.
We are developing an mRNA encoding human MUT encapsulated in our proprietary LNPs for IV administration for the treatment of isolated MMA associated with MUT deficiency. The sequence has been engineered to improve protein translation. To function, the mRNA-encoded MUT protein is translocated to its site of action in the mitochondria.
Methylmalonic acidemia (mRNA-3705): Preclinical information
mRNA-3705 shows greater potency and more prolonged lowering of plasma methylmalonic acid compared to mRNA-3704 in animal studies.
We previously demonstrated, in a series of in vitro and in vivo pharmacology studies, that human MUT mRNA effectively directs the biosynthesis of active MUT protein with physiologically correct mitochondrial localization in vitro, and improves survival and corrects biochemical abnormalities in two different mouse models of MMA representing the spectrum of MUT deficiency (mut0 and mut-), as published by us in Cell Reports in 2017 and EBioMedicine in 2019. Technology and process improvements enabled the development of an updated drug product, mRNA-3705, which shows greater potency and better pharmacology compared to mRNA-3704. As shown in the figure below, mRNA-3705 produced approximately 3-times more MUT protein than mRNA-3704 in livers of rats 24 hours after a single intravenous injection.
mRNA-3705mRNA-3705 produced higher levels of MUT protein in the livers of rats compared to mRNA-3704
In MMA mice with partial MUT deficiency (Mut-/-;TgINS-CBA-G715V, mut-), mRNA-3705 showed greater potency and prolonged the reduction in plasma methylmalonic acid levels compared to mRNA-3704 in a 4-week study, as shown in the figure below. This data suggests that the minimal efficacious dose may be lower for mRNA-3705 than for mRNA-3704.
mRNA-3705 treatment produced a greater and more sustained reduction in plasma methylmalonic acid compared to mRNA-3704 in a 4-week study in mut- mice
Furthermore, mRNA-3705 treatment of a more severe MMA mouse model (Mut-/-;TgINS-MCK-Mut, mut0) improved survival, increased body weight, and produced a sustained reduction of plasma methylmalonic acid levels compared to PBS treatment in a 12-week study.
Methylmalonic acidemia (mRNA-3705): Clinical plan
We are conducting a global natural history study and a Phase 1/2 clinical trial in North America and Europe
We are conducting a global natural history study in methylmalonic acidemia, or MMA, and propionic acidemia, or PA, that was initiated in 2018. Our natural history study aims to identify and correlate clinical and biomarker endpoints for both MMA and PA. The natural history study is a global, multi-center, non-interventional study for patients with confirmed diagnosis of MMA due to
MUT deficiency or PA. Up to 60 MMA patients and up to 60 PA patients in the United States and Europe will be followed prospectively for 1-3 years. Enrollment in the study has been completed. Retrospective data are also being collected as available.
We recently ceased development of mRNA-3704 and will return to the clinic with the next generation formulation, mRNA-3705. The new drug product mRNA-3705 has demonstrated greater potency and prolonged lowering of methylmalonic acid in mutase deficient mice when compared to mRNA-3704. An open-label, multi-center, dose finding Phase 1/2 study of mRNA-3705 in patients with isolated MMA due to MUT deficiency between 1 to 18 years of age is in planning and will enter clinic in 2021. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the safety, pharmacodynamics (as assessed by changes in plasma methylmalonic acid), and pharmacokinetic profile of mRNA-3705 in patients affected by MMA.
Phenylketonuria (PKU) (mRNA-3283)
Our approach to Phenylketonuria with an mRNA encoding for an intracellular protein
Phenylketonuria, or PKU, is a rare inherited metabolic disease resulting from a deficiency in the metabolism of phenylalanine, or PHE, due to mutations within the enzyme phenylalanine hydroxylase, or PAH. The most effective treatment is a restrictive diet of low protein, which controls PHE intake. Approximately 20-56% of PKU patients respond to sapropterin dihydrochloride (marketed as Kuvan in the United States), a synthetic BH4 cofactor for PAH which improves PHE metabolism, but does not fully cure patients. In addition, in May 2018, Biomarin received approval for pegylated phenylalanine lyase, or PAL, marketed as Palynziq. Palynziq is a pegylated recombinant bacterial enzyme which metabolizes PHE in the blood. We believe the immune risk is, at least in part, driven by bacterial PAL. With our mRNA technology, cells in the human body can be instructed to produce functional PAH, decreasing PHE levels in the blood and restoring production of tyrosine. We are developing an intravenously administered mRNA which encodes for the PAH enzyme and is encapsulated in our proprietary LNP. We plan to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial for mRNA-3283.
Phenylketonuria (mRNA-3283): Disease overview
There are options to treat PKU which are not widely applicable, and efforts by other companies are likely to face hurdles
PKU occurs in approximately 1:10,000-15,000 live births in the United States. Based on current population estimates that would translate into approximately 21,000-32,000 PKU patients in the United States. Affected individuals have a deficiency in the enzyme PAH, resulting in a reduced or complete inability to metabolize the essential amino acid phenylalanine into tyrosine. Thus, PKU patients suffer from a phenylalanine intoxication and a subsequent deprivation of tyrosine, leading to severe mental disability if left untreated.
PAH is expressed as a monomer, but functions as a tetramer and requires tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) as a cofactor to complete the conversion of PHE to tyrosine, thereby maintaining adequate PHE:TYR ratios within circulation. To date, greater than 950 gene variants have been identified in the PAH gene, resulting in PKU.
Diagnosis of PKU occurs primarily through newborn screening in available countries, followed by genetic confirmation. Newly diagnosed patients receive medical formulas containing protein with low PHE content to control blood PHE and provide adequate nutrition for growing infants. As patients age, they are tested for sensitivity to synthetic BH4 and may transition to Kuvan. Approximately 20% of patients respond favorably to Kuvan, which can aid in PHE control. Nonresponsive patients are treated mainly with restricted diet; however, adherence to the diet is challenging, resulting in poor compliance. When PHE levels are not adequately controlled, patients begin to show multiple signs of disease, including depression, anxiety, poor executive function, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.
One option for PKU patients may be treatment with gene therapy. We believe there are potential advantages for mRNA therapeutics for this disorder over gene therapy as described in the systemic intracellular therapeutics modality section.
Phenylketonuria (mRNA-3283): Our product concept
We intend to utilize the cells in the human body to produce PAH intracellularly
We believe mRNA therapy is a viable therapeutic modality for PKU patients due to its ability to instruct cells in the human body to produce complex functional intracellular proteins such as PAH. Our program mRNA-3283 consists of an mRNA encoding human PAH encapsulated in our proprietary LNPs. The mRNA sequence is optimized for protein synthesis and contains a microRNA
binding site to reduce or potentially eliminate synthesis of protein outside of the target tissues. mRNA-3283 is designed to be administered intravenously to encode enzymatically-active PAH protein in liver to restore this deficient or defective enzyme.
Phenylketonuria (mRNA-3283): Preclinical information
We have demonstrated the ability to impact PHE levels by repeat dosing of our mRNA in preclinical studies
We have conducted several in vitro and in vivo pharmacology studies to demonstrate preclinical proof-of-concept for PAH therapy. A PKU mouse model demonstrated a significant reduction of blood PHE levels post dose as shown in the figure below. The study included IV administration of PAH mRNA every 7 days at 0.5 mg/kg in a PAH-/- mouse model. PHE level was measured using liquid chromatography with a combination of two mass analyzers (LC-MS/MS). The IND-enabling GLP toxicology program for PKU (mRNA-3283) is ongoing.
PHE reduction with repeat dosing of PAH mRNA in PKU mouse model study
Phenylketonuria (mRNA-3283): Clinical plan
We plan to conduct a Phase 1 open label clinical trial with single ascending dose to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and activity of our development candidate in patients.
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (GSD1a) (mRNA-3745)
Our approach to glycogen storage disease type 1a using an mRNA encoding for intracellular human glucose 6-phosphatase
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (GSD1a) is an inherited metabolic disease caused by the deficiency in the catalytic activity of glucose 6-phosphatase (G6Pase), which is encoded by the glucose 6-phosphatase gene (G6PC). The G6Pase enzyme is involved in the metabolic pathways of glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis which allow the liver and kidney to release glucose into the blood. Those affected by GSD1a present with life-threatening hypoglycemia and a wide range of severe metabolic derangements and long-term complications such as hyperlipidemia, lactic acidemia, hepatomegaly, hepatocellular adenomas, and end-stage renal disease. The standard of care consists of strict diet control. Enzyme replacement therapy (ERT) is not an option for these patients due to challenges associated with delivering an enzyme inside the cell. Strict diet control via the frequent consumption of uncooked cornstarch is effective in improving hypoglycemia. However, the underlying pathologies continue and its efficacy in preventing the long-term metabolic complications has yet to be established. With our mRNA platform, cells in the liver may be instructed to produce functional G6Pase, with the goal of restoring the homeostasis of glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis pathways and correcting the underlying pathologies. We are developing an intravenously administered mRNA which encodes for G6Pase and is encapsulated in our proprietary LNP. We have demonstrated activity in mouse models in the form of reduction in both liver and serum biomarkers and improvements in liver morphology. We plan to conduct a Phase 1 clinical trial for mRNA-3745.
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (mRNA-3745): Disease overview
There are no approved therapies for GSD1a that address the enzymatic deficiency
GSD1a is an inherited metabolic disorder caused by a deficiency in the catalytic activity of G6Pase. G6Pase catalyzes the hydrolysis of glucose-6-phosphate to glucose and inorganic phosphate, the final step of glycogenolysis and gluconeogenesis that mainly takes place in liver and kidney. GSD1a patients suffer from severe fasting hypoglycemia, hepatomegaly, nephromegaly, lactic acidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, hyperuricemia, hypercholesterolemia, hepatic steatosis, and growth retardation. In addition, hepatocellular adenomas occur in 70% to 80% of GSD1a patients by their third decade of life and carries risk of transformation into hepatocellular carcinomas. Proteinuria has been observed in over half of patients above 25 years of age.
GSD1a occurs in approximately 1:100,000 live births in the United States and European Union but is more common in Ashkenazi Jews where the incidence is reported to be 1:20,000 live births. There are an estimated 2,500 people in the United States and over 4,000 people in the European Union with GSD1a. Although strict diet therapy, including frequent feeding with uncooked cornstarch, allows GSD1a patients to live into adulthood by preventing hypoglycemia, the underlying pathological processes remain uncorrected resulting in the development of many long-term complications including liver adenomas and hepatocellular carcinoma. While gene therapy is being investigated for treatment of GSD1a, we believe there are potential advantages for mRNA therapeutics for this disorder over gene therapy.
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (mRNA-3745): Our product concept
We intend to utilize the cells in the human body to produce G6Pase intracellularly
We believe that our platform can address GSD1a with its ability to instruct cells in the human body to produce complex functional intracellular membrane proteins such as G6Pase. Our program, mRNA-3745, consists of an mRNA encoding for modified human G6Pase encapsulated in our proprietary LNPs. The human G6Pase sequence is modified for improved protein production and G6Pase activity. mRNA-3745 is designed to be administered intravenously and encodes G6Pase protein to restore this deficient or defective enzyme.
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (mRNA-3745): Preclinical information
We have demonstrated the ability to improve hypoglycemia and other metabolic abnormalities associated with GSD1a in a mouse model
We have conducted several in vitro and in vivo pharmacology studies to demonstrate preclinical proof-of-concept for GSD1a therapy. mRNA encoding for G6Pase introduced in human cells resulted in robust production of active G6Pase with subcellular localization into endoplasmic reticulum. We have examined the activity of mRNA encoding for human G6Pase in a liver-specific G6Pase -/- mouse model (G6PC.LKO). Like GSD1a patients, the G6PC.LKO mice are unable to produce endogenous glucose, leading to severe hypoglycemia during the fasting state.
In a dose-response study performed in G6PC.LKO mice, we treated the mice with three different doses of 0.2, 0.5, and 1 mg/kg of G6Pase mRNA encapsulated in our proprietary LNP and examined fasting glucose, serum triglycerides, and liver enzymes (n=5-8). Of note, mice treated with G6Pase mRNA showed a dose-dependent improvement in fasting glycemia and a reduction in serum triglycerides, without a significant increase in liver enzymes (e.g. alanine transaminase - ALT). Fasting blood glucose and triglycerides are shown in the figure below. Each bar represents the mean ± standard deviation. Single and double asterisk denotes p < 0.05 and p < 0.0001, respectively, by one-way ANOVA, followed by Dunnett’s post-hoc test for multiple comparisons.
Serum biomarkers after single dose of G6Pase mRNA in G6PC.LKO mice
In the same study, a reduction in liver weight compared to the control-treated group was observed after 24 hours of administration of G6Pase encoded mRNA in LNP. The reduction in liver weight was associated with significant improvement in liver morphology presumably due to reduction in liver glucose 6-phosphate, glycogen, and triglycerides.
Reduction in liver weight 24 hours after IV administration of G6Pase mRNA in G6PC.LKO mice
In addition, data for a 7-week repeat-dose study in G6PC.LKO mice receiving G6Pase mRNA in LNP at 0.25 mg/kg IV every other week have shown a pronounced improvement in fasting glycemia, in comparison with the G6PC.LKO mice receiving a control mRNA treatment as shown below (n=7-9).
Restoration of blood glucose above therapeutic threshold with repeat dosing of G6Pase mRNA in G6PC.LKO mice
Glycogen storage disease type 1a (mRNA-3745): Clinical plan
We are planning a Phase 1 clinical trial
We plan to conduct an open-label, dose escalation Phase 1 study of mRNA-3745 in adolescent and adult patients with GSD1a in the United States. The objectives of this study are to evaluate the safety and tolerability of mRNA-3745, to assess the pharmacodynamic response through changes in maintenance of euglycemia, and to characterize the pharmacokinetic profile of mRNA-3745.
MANUFACTURING (PRODUCT SUPPLY AND TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT)
Manufacturing plays a critical role in our value chain and our ability to develop a new class of medicines. Our manufacturing capabilities support our Research and Early Development Engines, in addition to our Late Stage Development and Commercial Engines. These capabilities have rapidly accelerated as a result of COVID-19 vaccine production.
Within the Research Engine, manufacturing provides mRNA drug substance and drug product for platform research and therapeutic area drug discovery. For the Early Development Engine, we manufacture mRNA and drug product for IND-enabling GLP toxicology studies and initial human clinical studies. For the Late Stage Development Engine, we produce mRNA and drug product for phase 3 studies. In addition, within the Commercial Engine, we manufacture drug substance and drug product in collaboration with our contract manufacturing organizations, or CMOs, both in the U.S. and internationally. Our approach to date has been to proactively invest and build manufacturing capacity internally and externally with our network of strategic partners in anticipation of demand. This capacity planning was immediately leveraged and expanded during our COVID-19 vaccine ramp-up into a commercial product in response to the ongoing pandemic.
Overview of our manufacturing operating model
Our manufacturing activities focus on the following:
•Commercial Production: Our manufacturing expertise includes state-of-the-art technologies for mRNA and drug product manufacturing, as well as quality control testing to attain a robust and consistent supply that matches target product profiles. Our manufacturing technology is built to scale-up and support industrialization of products for commercial approval.
•Research and Development Support: The product supply enables platform research and drug discovery in our therapeutic and vaccine areas, in addition to activities related to clinical studies of our investigational medicines.
Given our expectations for significant ongoing pipeline expansion and the long lead time required to build manufacturing infrastructure, we built a dedicated in-house manufacturing facility in Norwood, MA, Moderna Technology Center (MTC). The campus is comprised of two distinct buildings (MTC South and MTC North). MTC South is approximately 200,000 square feet, with a production capacity of over 100 cGMP lots per year. MTC North is approximately 240,000 square feet, directly supporting improvement in our manufacturing capabilities. MTC supports our Research Engine supply, IND-enabling GLP toxicology study supplies, our Phase 1 and Phase 2 pipeline activities, later-stage clinical development activities (e.g., Phase 3 CMV vaccine clinical trials), as well as COVID-19 vaccine drug substance production.
The MTC campus has been designed with a high level of automation and state-of-the-art digital integration to handle manufacturing execution, product testing and release, and regulatory filings. In addition, substantial manufacturing capabilities are realized via CMO relationships in the U.S. and abroad, providing drug substance and fill finish capacity for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Manufacturing Technology Development
To support our broad pipeline of products, which span multiple therapeutic areas and routes of administration (e.g., intramuscular, intratumoral, and intravenous), there is close collaboration between our Platform Research and Technical Development teams to facilitate rapid and seamless clinical translation of scientific breakthroughs. This, in turn, enables us to develop potential vaccines and therapies to serve a widening patient population.
Technical Development encompasses the design and optimization of robust and consistent manufacturing processes, product characterization, fit-for-purpose formulations, and product presentations. For instance, our novel hardware platforms’ automation and robotics, coupled with the flexibility of our in-house digital development systems, allows for thousands of experiments and process parameters across our projects, thus supporting our drug product pharmaceutical readiness. Moreover, our recent technical manufacturing advances have enabled internalization of new key capabilities, including DNA plasmids and small molecules.
In parallel, we have refined existing processes, resulting in increased manufacturing scale and more robust stability of our mRNA and drug product. These improvements allow us significant control over our supply chain, resulting in larger production yields and longer shelf life of our products. Furthermore, formulation development advancements have added new drug product images, including lyophilization, giving us a path from frozen to refrigerated storage conditions.
Our substantial investments in recent years in Technical Development enabled the breadth and depth of our pipeline, and laid the foundation to help meet the needs and requirements associated with late stage development and the commercialization of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Supply of mRNA for the Research and Early Development Engines
Supply for the Research Engine
High-throughput automation and custom engineered equipment allow us to produce and deliver high quality mRNA and formulated constructs in a short period of time: our proprietary platform is capable of producing up to 1,000 lots of mRNA sequences and formulations per month with a turnaround time of a few weeks from sequence to final product. The typical scale of mRNA manufactured by this team is 1–1,000 mg. Since 2014, we have produced over 27,000 batches of research-grade mRNA. This has been possible, in part, thanks to the ability of researchers in the Moderna ecosystem to order constructs through an integrated digital portal that tracks materials end-to-end in less than 45 days. In addition, multiple integrated algorithms that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning optimize manufacturability, reduce failures, and increase quality of mRNA sequences.
Supply for the Early Development Engine
Analogous to the Research Engine, we have established manufacturing capabilities that support the Early Development Engine in three key areas: GLP Tox, Clinical Studies, and Personalized Cancer Vaccines. We supply mRNA and formulated product to conduct IND-enabling GLP toxicology studies. In addition, human clinical studies rely on supply to meet required cGMP standards. This is achieved via internal manufacturing at MTC and external manufacturing at well-established contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs). We selected specialized CMOs to support a total of five programs in late 2015. We will continue to selectively partner with CMOs to complement our capacity and provide supply contingency where needed. Our MTC facility is also suited to enable rapid technology development and scale-up for future needs. Our manufacturing also produces cGMP Personalized Cancer Vaccines (PCVs). Due to the specialized nature of personalized medicine (i.e., where a batch is specifically designed and manufactured for a single patient), the manufacturing Personalized Vaccine Unit (PVU) has unique requirements. We digitally integrate patient-specific data from sequencing tumor samples to automatically design PCVs for patients. We have developed proprietary bioinformatics designed algorithms linked to an automated manufacturing process for rapid production of formulated mRNA, with a typical turnaround time of a few weeks. We have operationalized PCV manufacturing at the MTC campus to meet our Phase 1 and 2 pipeline supply needs by using single-use systems with fast “needle-to-needle” turnaround times. Unlike traditional process development, each PCV batch is manufactured for a single patient and thus scaled-out (in parallel) with extensive use of automation and robotics to account for the larger number of patients involved in later phases of development and commercialization. We have shown consistent quality in our production of over 160 patient batches, each with unique mRNA sequences.
These capabilities have allowed us to build our broad pipeline of 24 development candidates, including the output required to supply related toxicological and human clinical studies. While the technology that underpins these 24 programs is the same, each program typically requires customization based on target product profiles. These custom features range from varying molecular architecture to different routes of administration, often requiring multivalent products. For example, our CMV vaccine (mRNA-1647) requires six different mRNA sequences to be manufactured for inclusion in an intramuscular mRNA medicine, whereas OX40L (mRNA-2416) requires a single mRNA sequence for inclusion in an intratumoral mRNA medicine. All programs, with the exception of PCV, require that we progressively scale up supply to meet clinical demand requirements across development phases, in addition to the necessary preparation for regulatory approval and commercial production, which demand larger batch sizes. In contrast, the PCV program seeks to develop a cancer vaccine that is designed and manufactured for a specific patient, thus increasing the number of unique batches. As we scale manufacturing output for each program, we plan to continuously improve yield, purity, and the pharmaceutical properties of our development candidates.
Supply for the Late-Stage Development and Commercialization Engines
As we manufacture the COVID-19 vaccine, our development pipeline continues to advance to later-stage development and towards commercialization. Our platform approach allows us to continue to evolve our manufacturing suites and other capabilities at our MTC campus. Building expansions and enhancements have continued throughout scale-up of our COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capabilities. The modular nature of the MTC suites permits us to manufacture multiple products in parallel. For instance, we can produce drug substance and drug product for our phase 3 CMV clinical trial while manufacturing COVID-19 drug substance.
Quality is core to the way we operate. We seek to ensure quality at Moderna through a combination of a robust Quality Management System (QMS), our quality culture, and our people. In accordance with applicable regulations, we have established, documented, and implemented a QMS to assure continued compliance with the requirements therein. The QMS facilitates cGMP compliance by implementing practices that identify the various required processes, their application throughout the organization, and the sequence of interaction of these processes.
The primary mode of documenting these key practices is through policies, standard operating procedures (SOPs), forms, and other quality records, which include an overarching Quality Policy and Quality Manual. We have implemented measurement tools and metrics to monitor, measure, and analyze these practices to support cGMP operations, achieve planned results, and support continuous improvement. We monitor these quality metrics through formal governance processes, including Quality Management Review (QMR), to enable continuous improvement. We have also established an independent Quality Unit that fulfills quality assurance and quality control responsibilities.
Our Quality Unit grew into an international organization with the introduction of COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing. Quality drives our quality culture and ensures it is applied consistently and thoughtfully across the globe.
While the Quality Unit is ultimately accountable and responsible for quality, this is everyone’s responsibility. All cGMP personnel are empowered to ensure quality systems are appropriately maintained and executed.
We have established a culture that encourages transparency, accountability, and ownership of quality at all levels in the organization. As we scale the quality organization, we have focused on hiring the best talent with the required experience, training, and education.
Supply Chain Unit
We have established an international supply chain to enable supply of the raw materials used to produce our mRNAs and the components of our formulations, securing supply for COVID-19 vaccine alongside clinical and preclinical demands. We have worked with our supply chain vendors to characterize critical raw materials and to understand their impact on the quality of mRNA drug substance and formulated drug product. We also assess the quality system and performance of our supply chain vendors and work with them to comply with regulatory requirements.
We believe that digital technologies, such as robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, or AI, and cloud computing, are critical to operationalize our strategy, accelerate our pace of learning and execute at scale. Since our inception, we have invested over $100 million in our digital technologies, robotics/automation, analytics, data science and AI. Given our growth, we expect we will invest more than an additional $100 million in digital over the next 5 years. Our approach to bring these digital technologies into our workflows and processes has involved the following:
•utilization of a consistent set of digital building blocks;
•application of digital technologies in multiple business processes; and
•rapid iterations for maximum optimization.
We have seen several benefits from our investments in digitization, most importantly through the depth of our platform technology and breadth of our pipeline. Other benefits include:
•Quality: Reduction in human errors by enabling automation, repeatability, and seamless integration;
•Scalability: Growth in our pipeline to 24 programs;
•Speed: Rapid manufacture of research-grade mRNA from the Research Engine; and
•Cost efficiencies: Digital infrastructure utilized across our platform, drug discovery, clinical development, and manufacturing to maximize efficiencies.
Our digital building blocks
We utilize six building blocks for our digital infrastructure:
•Cloud enablement is a critical component of our digital infrastructure. We are at the forefront of mRNA technology. We generate complex data sets, and our scientists need computational power and agility to operate without being limited by traditional computing technology. Maintaining digital infrastructure in the cloud provides the benefits of lower costs by simplifying provisioning and administration, flexibility, scalability, ease of maintenance, disaster recovery, and information security.
•Integration of business processes enables us to streamline processes and bring data together in a consistent manner, avoiding caches of information and manual intervention. This efficient flow of data between systems enables the automation of our business processes.
•Internet of things allows for smart interconnected devices that provide real-time synchronization of operations. The data from equipment provides real-time guidance to our scientists and engineers and helps us in supply chain and manufacturing with compliance and traceability, including tracking material, controlling inventory and optimizing instrument usage.
•Automation allows us to scale our operations reliably and reproducibly. With the help of custom hardware solutions and state-of-the-art robotics, we can continue to increase our operating efficiency, reduce errors, and improve our quality and compliance.
•Advanced analytics enable us to draw insights from our data. We are constantly generating large data sets that can provide important insights if mined appropriately and regularly.
•Artificial intelligence, or AI, is enabling key breakthroughs in predictive modeling. It will allow us to improve our mRNA design algorithms based on machine learning, and will provide us with critical insights into research, supply chain, manufacturing, and other processes.
Digital technologies to enable our Research Engine
We have deployed multiple digital technologies across our Research Engine to drive a rapid pace of learning, enable efficient workflows and business processes, and draw insights from vast amounts of data. Our aim is to provide our platform and discovery scientists with access to an environment that helps them through each step of their research cycle.
Drug Design Studio: Our proprietary in-house digital application suite contains a Sequence Designer module to tailor an entire mRNA, with ever-improving rule sets that contain our accumulated learning about mRNA design. Drug Design Studio utilizes cloud-based computational capacity to run various algorithms we have developed to design each mRNA sequence. The utility of cloud-based capacity allows us to provide flexible computational capacity on demand, allowing the Research Engine to power parallel intake and design of multiple mRNA sequences. Once a sequence is designed, it can be ordered digitally using an internal order form application within Drug Design Studio.
Manufacture of research grade mRNA: Once an order is optimized, the mRNA production process is triggered. We have developed proprietary interfaces that allow the manufacturing team to track production orders at every stage. We have automated several manufacturing steps using both off-the-shelf and custom automation. The equipment used in the manufacture of research-grade mRNA is integrated with the digital interfaces to capture, extract, and interpret the data generated at each step of the manufacturing process, building digital traceability on each mRNA order. We have also embedded real-time algorithms and analytics tools to allow for automated decision-making at some stages, accelerate the quality control workflows, and provide for continuous improvement of manufacturing processes.
Dispatching and shipping mRNA: Because we produce large quantities of research-grade mRNA, we require digital tools to track their shipment to our scientists and to external contract research organizations, or CROs, conducting in vivo studies. Our dispatching and shipping application automatically generates bar-coded labels, allowing for traceability of product.
Inventory and registry: Material used in research and created in production, including mRNA, cell lines, chemicals, and reagents, is tracked in our Inventory application. This application supports numerous workflow tools such as consumption, aliquoting, material transfer, and stock alerts. Critical material types are assigned unique registry identification by our Registry application.
Study design: Using our Drug Design Studio, our scientists can design their in vivo studies using our proprietary Study Design application. This application captures in vivo study protocol design parameters, including dose amount, number of doses, frequency, samples, and assays for each sample. This application serves two purposes. It allows our scientists to maintain and track their in vivo study designs and associated research grade mRNA. Our Study Design application also allows our in vivo pharmacology teams to track the various ongoing studies and leverage external CROs to manage the in vivo demand as needed.
Experiment management: We have deployed Electronic Lab Notebooks for experiment management, allowing our scientists to streamline documentation of their experiments and track it in a standardized, searchable repository. We have also integrated Electronic Lab Notebooks further with our other research tools to connect inventory, in vivo studies, and instrument data.
Advanced analytics and AI to accelerate the pace of learning: We utilize AI to enable various parts of our platform and drug discovery. Examples include:
•Neural networks for protein engineering: One way to optimize the efficacy of the proteins encoded by our mRNA is to engineer the sequence of the protein itself. We use neural networks to analyze and model protein sequences. We train these models by inputting orthologous sequences from thousands of organisms, from which we can generate potential protein sequences optimized for specific attributes.
•Neural networks for mRNA engineering: The redundancy in the genetic code allows for a large number of mRNA sequences that encode the same protein. mRNA sequence may impact translation, thereby impacting the amount of protein produced in circulation. We are developing AI tools to predict mRNA sequences that can enhance protein expression.
•Automated Sanger sequencing analysis: Sanger sequencing is us used repeatedly to quality check, or QC, our DNA templates and final mRNA; while the data contain every nucleotide in a sequence, it is very complex to analyze. A fully automated data pipeline starts processing raw data the moment it is saved to the cloud by the sequencers. The pipeline spawns numerous AWS computer servers to run an analysis algorithm and then shuts the servers down, resulting in minimal costs. The results are viewable in a powerful, dynamic visualization tool. We have run over 3 million Sanger data files through this system. We have further improved our Sanger analysis with a convolutional neural network, or CNN, to better analyze the tail sections of mRNA as well.
Digital technologies to enable our Early Development Engine
We have deployed multiple digital technologies across our Early Development Engine to drive the rapid pace of advancement, in parallel, of our development candidates into the clinic.
Digital systems for cGMP manufacture: We are committed to having integrated systems connected with robotics to drive our manufacturing in a paperless environment, and have designed and deployed automation to drive efficient manufacturing operations. We have also deployed digital tools within manufacturing process development that give us the ability to track, analyze, and rapidly deploy manufacturing process improvements. Additionally, we have implemented several digital systems across manufacturing process development, quality, supply chain, and operations, including:
•enterprise Quality Management System, or QMS, to electronically manage deviations, investigation, and correction and preventive actions;
•Laboratory Information Management System, or LIMS, to manage our analytical development data and automate our manufacturing quality control;
•computerized maintenance management system to manage equipment maintenance and calibration; and
•SAP/S4 Hana system for enterprise resource planning, or ERP, manufacturing execution system, and manufacturing control system to manage inventories, track raw material consumption, digitally integrate equipment with manufacturing recipes in batch records, and control automated equipment.
Digital systems for clinical development and clinical operations: In order to track the timelines of various development candidates through the Early Development Engine, we have created a set of integrated applications. Workflows include timelines for regulatory filings, planning for IND-enabling GLP toxicology studies, scheduling for cGMP manufacturing, and clinical operations management. Below is a summary of our applications:
•Our portfolio application is a digital interface that maintains and tracks the timelines across multiple workstreams for each of our development candidates.
•The supply application manages the manufacturing schedule of IND-enabling GLP toxicology supplies and cGMP manufacture of clinical supplies to support our programs. This application helps us see how the manufacturing schedule changes over time, identifies supply/demand mismatches, and enables resource planning with real-time alerts should we have any issues.
•The GLP toxicology application tracks the planned and ongoing IND-enabling GLP toxicology studies and allows us to manage timelines with our external vendors.
•The regulatory application tracks timelines related to regulatory affairs including, pre-IND meetings, IND/CTA submission dates, and other planned regulatory interactions.
•Our clinical operations application allows us to track our ongoing trials by accessing clinical operations information in real-time from our CROs. It also has multiple tools and analytics to draw key insights, including, for example, enrollment by trial and enrollment by site to maintain our program timelines.
Digital systems for PCV: The PCV program aims to design, manufacture, and deliver a drug product that includes an mRNA sequence encoding for each patient’s specific neoantigens. The personalized nature of the PCV program adds additional steps and complexity in the overall patient treatment process. We have addressed those additional steps and complexity by digitizing and automating steps within the process, as described below.
•Each patient is provided a unique identifier. We track the entire workflow using a single integrated tracker based on this unique identifier. This is one of many ways we ensure that each patient receives the specific drug product lot manufactured for them.
•We use neural networks to design the mRNA sequences for the PCV program. Our proprietary vaccine design algorithm selects the top twenty neoantigens to be used and determines their amino acid sequences to trigger the desired immune response.
•We utilize Monte Carlo simulations of PCV supply/demand to manage our capacity. Since each drug product lot is personalized to a patient, there is a need to manage supply and demand to avoid bottlenecks at any stage of the workflow.
Digital systems for the Commercial Engine: We are building our commercial engine to establish medical affairs engagements with doctors, support our sales and marketing capabilities and deliver a world-class patient experience. In addition to a patient- and doctor-centric view, our commercial engine will strengthen our supply chain demand forecasting and our compliance. We are looking at building a robust serialization process for regulatory requirements as well as anti-counterfeiting technologies to ensure safe, efficacious medicines to patients.
Digital technologies to support our business processes
We have deployed several digital systems across finance, manufacturing, and human resources to automate our business processes and drive efficiencies. We have implemented the SAP S4/Hana system for ERP. We have implemented various cloud-based solutions to improve business processes and drive efficiencies. For example, we have implemented the Workday system for human resource planning and management and integrated various applications across payroll, 401k services, equity plan management and expense reporting. Our class-leading integration platform, Dell Boomi, allows us to have a highly interconnected environment, moving us from simple cloud-to-cloud integrations to an evolving use of the integration platform for master data management, systems account management, and ultimately for cost savings and improved user experience.
THIRD-PARTY STRATEGIC ALLIANCES
To accelerate the discovery and advancement of potential mRNA medicines across therapeutic areas, we have entered into, and intend to seek other opportunities to form, alliances with a diverse group of strategic collaborators. We have forged productive strategic alliances with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, government agencies, academic laboratories, foundations and research institutes with therapeutic area expertise and resources in an effort to advance our discovery and development programs, while leveraging our platform and our Research and Early Development Engines.
One key principle of our approach to strategic alliances is to share the rewards and risks of developing a new mRNA modality, where we may have early research data and desire a strategic collaborator to join us in advancing early development candidates within such modality into the clinic. Representative relationships and associated programs include the following:
•AstraZeneca for the localized regenerative therapeutics modality, such as the VEGF-A program (AZD8601) currently in Phase 2a;
•AstraZeneca for the intratumoral immuno-oncology modality, such as the IL-12 program (MEDI1191) currently in Phase 1;
•Merck for the cancer vaccines modality, such as the personalized cancer vaccine program (mRNA-4157) currently in Phase 2 using a workflow that enables a rapid turnaround time to bring personalized vaccines to patients, and the KRAS vaccine program (mRNA-5671) currently in Phase 1;
•DARPA for the systemic secreted therapeutics modality, such as the antibody against Chikungunya virus program (mRNA-1944) currently in Phase 1;
•Vertex for the lung delivery modality, such as the cystic fibrosis, or CF, and cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, or CFTR program currently in research;
•Vertex for gene editing, aimed at the discovery and development of LNPs and mRNAs for the delivery of gene-editing therapies for the treatment of CF; and
•Chiesi Farmaceutici S.P.A. for the discovery and development of potential mRNA medicines for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
We view strategic alliances as important drivers for accelerating execution of our goal of rapidly developing mRNA medicines to treat patients across a wide range of medical and disease challenges. To maintain the integrity of our platform, the terms of our agreements with our strategic collaborators generally provide that our strategic collaborators receive rights to develop and commercialize potential mRNA medicines that we design and manufacture, as opposed to rights to use our platform to generate new mRNA, and that we generally own mRNA-related intellectual property arising from research activities performed under the strategic alliance. We plan to continue to identify potential strategic collaborators who can contribute meaningful resources and insights to our programs and allow us to more rapidly expand our impact to broader patient populations.
AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN)—Strategic Alliances in Cardiovascular and Oncology
We have had three alliances with AstraZeneca, two of which are ongoing. Our first strategic alliance established in 2013 and amended and restated in 2018, was to discover, develop, and commercialize potential mRNA medicines for the treatment of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases, as well as selected targets for cancer. The relationship with AstraZeneca was expanded in 2016 by entering into a new immuno-oncology strategic alliance which is now focused on the joint development of an mRNA investigational medicine to make the IL-12 protein. It was further expanded in 2017 by entering into a third strategic alliance focused on the joint development of a potential mRNA medicine to make the relaxin protein, following discovery and preclinical development of the relevant development candidate internally. This last strategic alliance related to relaxin was terminated in December 2020. Additionally, AstraZeneca made several equity investments in Moderna, totaling approximately $290.0 million through December 31, 2020, although AstraZeneca has disclosed it is no longer a Moderna shareholder as of that date.
2013 Agreements with AstraZeneca, amended and restated in 2018
In March 2013, we entered into an Option Agreement and a related Services and Collaboration Agreement with AstraZeneca, which were amended and restated in June 2018 (2018 A&R Agreements). Under the 2018 A&R Agreements, we granted AstraZeneca certain exclusive rights and licenses to research, develop and commercialize potential therapeutic mRNA medicines directed at certain targets for the treatment of cardiovascular and cardiometabolic diseases and cancer, and agreed to provide related services to AstraZeneca. The activities to be performed by the parties under the 2018 A&R Agreements are limited to defined biological targets in the cardiovascular and cardiometabolic fields and one defined target in the cancer field.
As of the effective date of the original Option Agreement and Services and Collaboration Agreement in 2013, AstraZeneca made upfront cash payments to us totaling $240.0 million in exchange for the acquired options and our performance of certain research-related services, each as described above. AstraZeneca will pay us a $10.0 million option exercise payment with respect to each development candidate (and related back-up candidates) for which it exercises an option. We are also eligible to receive, on a product-by-product basis, up to $400.0 million in aggregate contingent option exercise payments upon the achievement of certain development, regulatory and commercial milestone events. Additionally, we are entitled to receive, on a product-by-product basis, earn-out payments on worldwide net sales of products ranging from a high-single digit percentage to 12%, subject to certain reductions, with an aggregate minimum floor. Through December 31, 2020, we have received from AstraZeneca an option exercise payment of $10.0 million and a clinical milestone payment of $30.0 million with respect to AstraZeneca’s VEGF-A product (AZD8601) that is currently being developed in a Phase 2a clinical trial in the cardiovascular and cardiometabolic fields. Additionally, through December 31, 2020, we have received $120.0 million from AstraZeneca under the 2018 A&R Agreements for the achievement of specified technical milestones. Further detail on the terms of the 2018 A&R Agreements, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
2016 Strategic Alliance with AstraZeneca—IL-12
In January 2016, we entered into a new Strategic Drug Development Collaboration and License Agreement (2016 AZ Agreement) with AstraZeneca to discover, develop and commercialize potential mRNA medicines for the treatment of a range of cancers.
Under the terms of the 2016 AZ Agreement, we and AstraZeneca have agreed to work together on an immuno-oncology program focused on the intratumoral delivery of a potential mRNA medicine to make the IL-12 protein. The 2016 AZ Agreement initially included research activities with respect to a second discovery program. During a limited period of time, each party had an opportunity to propose additional discovery programs to be conducted under the 2016 AZ Agreement. We are responsible for conducting and funding all discovery and preclinical development activities under the 2016 AZ Agreement in accordance with an agreed upon discovery program plan for the IL-12 program and any other discovery program the parties agree to conduct under the 2016 AZ Agreement. For the IL-12 program and any other discovery program the parties agree to conduct under the 2016 AZ Agreement, during a defined election period that commenced as of the effective date of the 2016 AZ Agreement (for the IL-12 program) and otherwise will commence on initiation of any such new discovery program, AstraZeneca may elect to participate in the clinical development of a development candidate arising under the 2016 AZ Agreement from such program. If AstraZeneca so elects (as it has for the IL-12 program), AstraZeneca will lead clinical development activities worldwide and we will be responsible for certain activities, including being solely responsible for manufacturing activities, all in accordance with an agreed upon development plan. AstraZeneca will be responsible for funding all Phase 1 clinical development activities (including costs associated with our manufacture of clinical materials in accordance with the development plan), and Phase 2 clinical development activities (including costs associated with our manufacture of clinical materials in accordance with the development plan) up to a defined dollar threshold. We and AstraZeneca will equally share the costs of Phase 2 clinical development activities in excess of such dollar threshold, all Phase 3 clinical development activities and certain other costs of late-stage clinical development activities, unless we elect not to participate in further development and commercialization activities and instead receive tiered royalties, as described below. Further detail on the terms of the 2016 AZ Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
2017 Strategic Alliance with AstraZeneca—Relaxin
In October 2017, we entered a new Collaboration and License Agreement (2017 AZ License Agreement) under which AstraZeneca had the right to clinically develop and commercialize a development candidate, known as AZD7970, which is comprised of an mRNA construct for the relaxin protein designed by us and encapsulated in one of our proprietary LNPs. We discovered and performed preclinical development activities for AZD7970 prior to the initiation of the strategic alliance with AstraZeneca under the 2017 AZ License Agreement. On December 16, 2020, the 2017 AZ License Agreement was terminated by mutual agreement, and we received the right to further develop relaxin on our own without any further obligation to AstraZeneca.
Merck (NYSE: MRK)—Strategic Alliances in Infectious Diseases and Cancer Vaccines
We have established a multi-faceted relationship with Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (Merck) that includes distinct strategic alliances directed to the research, development, and commercialization of mRNA medicines for the prevention and treatment of viral infections and for the treatment of cancer. In connection with these alliances, Merck also made several equity investments in Moderna totaling approximately $182.0 million, although Merck has disclosed the sale of its direct equity interest.
2015 Strategic Alliance with Merck—Infectious Disease
In January 2015, we entered into a Master Collaboration and License Agreement with Merck (2015 Merck Agreement), to research, develop, and commercialize potential mRNA medicines for the prevention and treatment of infections by RSV. As a part of the May 2019 amendment of the 2015 Merck Agreement, we and Merck agreed to conclude the collaboration as it relates to development of potential mRNA medicines for other viruses, including mRNA-1278 for the prevention of varicella zoster virus (VZV) infection. Pursuant to the 2015 Merck Agreement, Merck was primarily responsible for research, development and commercialization activities and associated costs. We were responsible for designing and, at Merck's cost, manufacturing all mRNA constructs for preclinical and Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical development purposes. On October 7, 2020, the 2015 Merck Agreement between us and Merck related to our collaboration on RSV was terminated by mutual agreement, and the right to pursue the continued development and commercialization of product candidates and products, including RSV, reverted to us. Further detail on the terms of the 2015 Merck Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
2016 Expansion of the Infectious Disease Strategic Alliance with Merck
In January 2016, we expanded our infectious disease strategic alliance with Merck. Specifically, we and Merck agreed to amend the original 2015 Merck Agreement to include the research, development, and commercialization of mRNA medicines for the prevention and treatment of infection by the VZV in place of one of the viruses initially included under the 2015 Merck Agreement. Under the terms of the amended 2015 Merck Agreement, we received an upfront payment of $10.0 million from Merck for the inclusion of the new program and we agreed with Merck to increase the tiered royalty rates ranging from the mid-single digits to low-teens for net sales of products directed to this virus. In 2020, Merck elected not to continue with this program, and it was terminated.
2016 Cancer Vaccine Strategic Alliance—Personalized mRNA Cancer Vaccines with Merck
In June 2016, we entered into a personalized mRNA cancer vaccines (PCV) Collaboration and License Agreement with Merck (PCV Agreement) to develop and commercialize PCVs for individual patients using our mRNA vaccine and formulation technology. Under the strategic alliance, we identify genetic mutations present in a particular patient’s tumor cells, synthesize mRNA for these mutations, encapsulate the mRNA in one of our proprietary LNPs and administer to each patient a unique mRNA cancer vaccine designed to specifically activate the patient’s immune system against her or his own cancer cells.
Pursuant to the PCV Agreement, we are responsible for designing and researching PCVs, providing manufacturing capacity and manufacturing PCVs, and conducting Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials for PCVs, alone and in combination with KEYTRUDA (pembrolizumab), Merck’s anti-PD-1 therapy, all in accordance with an agreed upon development plan and budget. We received an upfront payment of $200.0 million from Merck, which we will use to fund the performance of our activities set forth in the agreed upon development plan and budget. In November 2017, we and Merck announced the achievement of a key milestone for the first-in-human dosing of a PCV (mRNA-4157) as a part of the alliance. Further detail on the terms of the PCV Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
2018 Expansion of the Cancer Vaccine Strategic Alliance with Merck—Shared Neoepitope Cancer Vaccines
In April 2018, we and Merck agreed to expand our cancer vaccine strategic alliance to include the development and commercialization of our KRAS vaccine development candidate, mRNA-5671, and potentially other shared neoantigen mRNA cancer vaccines (SAVs). We preclinically developed mRNA-5671 prior to its inclusion in the cancer vaccine strategic alliance and it is comprised of a novel mRNA construct designed by us and encapsulated in one of our proprietary LNPs. The PCV Agreement was amended and restated to include the new SAV strategic alliance (PCV/SAV Agreement). Further detail on the terms of the PCV/SAV Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
Vertex (Nasdaq: VRTX)—2016 Strategic Alliance in Cystic Fibrosis
In July 2016, we entered into a Strategic Collaboration and License Agreement (Vertex Agreement) with Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, and Vertex Pharmaceuticals (Europe) Limited (together, Vertex). The Vertex Agreement is aimed at the discovery and development of potential mRNA medicines for the treatment of cystic fibrosis (CF) by enabling cells in the lungs of people with CF to produce functional cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) proteins. Further detail on the terms of the Vertex Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
Vertex —2020 Strategic Alliance in Cystic Fibrosis
In September 2020, we entered into a new Strategic Collaboration and License Agreement with Vertex (Vertex 2020 Agreement). The Vertex 2020 Agreement is aimed at the discovery and development of potential medicines to treat CF by delivering gene-editing therapies to lung cells to facilitate production of functional CFTR proteins.
The three-year research period of the Vertex 2020 Agreement will initially focus on the identification and optimization of novel LNPs and mRNAs that can deliver gene-editing therapies to cells in the lungs. Following the initial three-year period, Vertex is responsible for conducting development and commercialization activities for candidates and products that arise from the strategic alliance, including the costs associated with such activities. Vertex is also obligated to pay us for research services in connection with our performance of certain activities in accordance with a jointly agreed research plan. Subject to customary “back-up” supply rights granted to Vertex, under the agreement, we are the exclusive manufacturer of related mRNA and LNPs for preclinical, clinical, and commercialization purposes. Further detail on the terms of the Vertex 2020 Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
Chiesi—2020 Collaboration and License Agreement with Chiesi
In September 2020, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement (Chiesi Agreement) with Chiesi Farmaceutici S.P.A. (Chiesi). The Chiesi Agreement is aimed at the discovery and development of potential mRNA medicines for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a rare disease characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Further detail on the terms of the Chiesi Agreement, including the financial arrangements are included in Note 5 to our Financial Statements (“Collaboration Agreements”).
Strategic alliances with government organizations and foundations
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
In October 2013, DARPA awarded Moderna up to approximately $24.6 million under Agreement No. W911NF-13-1-0417 to research and develop potential mRNA medicines as a part of DARPA’s Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics, or ADEPT, program, which is focused on assisting with the development of technologies to rapidly identify and respond to threats posed by natural and engineered diseases and toxins. As of December 31, 2020, $19.7 million of the award amount has been funded. This award followed an initial award from DARPA of approximately $1.4 million given in March 2013 under Agreement No. W31P4Q-13-1-0007. The DARPA awards have been deployed primarily in support of our vaccine and antibody programs to protect against Chikungunya infection.
In September 2020, we entered into an agreement with DARPA for an award of up to $56.4 million to fund development of a mobile manufacturing prototype leveraging our existing manufacturing technology that is capable of rapidly producing vaccines and therapeutics. As of September 30, 2020, the committed funding was $5.0 million, with an additional $51.4 million available under Agreement No. HR0011-20-9-0118 if DARPA exercises additional contract options.
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA)
In September 2016, we received an award of up to approximately $125.8 million under Agreement No. HHSO100201600029C from BARDA, a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to help fund our Zika vaccine program. Under the terms of the agreement with BARDA, an initial base award of approximately $8.2 million supported toxicology studies, a Phase 1 clinical trial, and associated manufacturing activities. Additionally, four contract options were awarded under the agreement with BARDA. Three out of four of these options have been exercised, bringing the total current award to approximately $117.3 million to support an additional Phase 1 study of an improved Zika vaccine candidate, Phase 2 and Phase 3 clinical studies, as well as large-scale manufacturing for the Zika vaccine.
In April 2020, we entered into an agreement with BARDA for an award of up to $483.3 million to accelerate development of mRNA-1273, our COVID-19 vaccine. In July 2020, we amended our agreement with BARDA to provide for an additional commitment of up to $471.6 million to support late-stage clinical development of mRNA-1273, including the execution of a 30,000 participant Phase 3 study in the U.S. The amendment increased the maximum award from BARDA from $483.3 million to $954.9 million. Under the terms of the agreement, BARDA will fund the advancement of mRNA-1273 to FDA licensure. All contract options have been exercised. As of December 31, 2020, the remaining available funding net of revenue earned was $444.3 million.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
In January 2016, we entered a global health project framework agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance mRNA-based development projects for various infectious diseases. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed up to $20.0 million in grant funding to support our initial project related to the evaluation of antibody combinations in a preclinical setting as well as the conduct of a first-in-human Phase 1 clinical trial of a potential mRNA medicine to help prevent human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, infections. Follow-on projects which could bring total potential funding under the framework agreement up to $100.0 million (including the HIV antibody project) to support the development of additional mRNA-based projects for various infectious diseases can be proposed and approved until the sixth anniversary of the framework agreement, subject to the terms of the framework agreement, including our obligation to grant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation certain non-exclusive licenses.
Our patent estate and approach, a strategic asset
Since our inception, we have considered the creation and building of our intellectual property, or IP, portfolio as a critical part of our mission. In a relatively short amount of time, we have built a significant patent estate that includes over 600 world-wide pending patent applications and over 270 issued or allowed U.S. and foreign patents covering key components of our proprietary platform technology, investigational medicines, and development candidates. The figure below shows our internally developed estate and indicates the number of patents approved since 2010.
We regularly identify inventions and trade secrets as we surmount various challenges with our platform to create modalities. We seek to protect our proprietary position by, among other means, filing U.S. and certain foreign patent applications related to our platform, modality, and program inventions. Our company trade secrets and know-how are appropriately guarded to maintain our business
advantage. We also seek to identify and obtain third party licenses where useful to maintain our advantageous IP position in the mRNA medicines field. We seek to obtain and maintain, and intend to strategically enforce, patents in appropriate jurisdictions for our platform technologies, modalities, and programs.
Protecting our platform, modality, and program investments: Building an expansive, multi-layered IP estate
We have built a substantial IP estate that includes numerous patents and patent applications related to the development and commercialization of mRNA vaccine and therapeutic development candidates, including related platform technologies. Our platform IP protects advances in mRNA design and engineering, proprietary LNP components, delivery systems, processes for the manufacture and purification of drug substances and products, and analytical methods. A significant portion of our platform IP estate further provides multi-layered protection for our modalities and programs.
With respect to our IP estate, our solely-owned patent portfolio consists of more than 145 issued or allowed U.S. patents or patent applications and more than 125 granted or allowed patents in jurisdictions outside of the U.S. covering certain of our proprietary platform technology, inventions, and improvements, and covering key aspects of our clinical and most advanced development candidates. Additional patent applications are also pending that, in many cases, are counterparts to the foregoing U.S. and foreign patents.
Most of the patents and applications (if issued) in our portfolio have or will have expiry dates extending out to 2033 at the earliest and at least 2041-2042 for patents ultimately granting based on our more recently filed patent applications.
We also rely on trademarks, trade secrets, and know-how relating to our proprietary technology and programs, continuing innovation, and in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen, and maintain our proprietary position in the field of mRNA therapeutic and vaccine technologies. We additionally plan to rely on data exclusivity, market exclusivity, and patent term extensions when available, and plan to seek and rely on regulatory protection afforded through orphan drug designations. We also possess substantial proprietary know-how associated with related manufacturing processes and expertise.
IP protecting our platform
We have a broad IP estate covering key aspects of our platform. This estate provides multiple layers of protection covering the making and use of the mRNA drug substance and delivery technologies.
With respect to our platform, we have a portfolio that includes approximately 100 issued or allowed U.S. patents or patent applications, and approximately 220 granted foreign patents and pending foreign patent applications covering platform innovations that are directly related to the design, formulation and manufacturing of mRNA medicines.
For example, these patents and patent applications include claims directed to:
•mRNA chemistry imparting improved properties for vaccine and therapeutic uses;
•methods for mRNA sequence optimization to enhance the levels and fidelity of proteins expressed from our mRNA medicines;
•methods for identifying epitopes having superior suitability in cancer vaccine contexts;
•engineering elements tailored to enhance stability and the in vivo performance of mRNA medicines;
•proprietary lipid nanoparticle, or LNP, delivery systems, including novel lipid components designed for optimal expression of both therapeutic and vaccine mRNAs, in particular, prophylactic infectious disease and cancer vaccine mRNAs, intratumoral immuno-oncology therapeutics, local regenerative therapeutics, systemic secreted therapeutics, and systemic intracellular therapeutics; and
•innovative processes for the manufacture and analysis of mRNA drug substance and formulated drug product.
IP protection for modalities
Our IP estate provides protection for the multiple programs within our modalities both at the product-specific level and at various broader levels. For example, we have patent coverage for LNP-encapsulated mRNAs having specific chemical modification suited for vaccine and therapeutic mRNA use. Our estate also includes IP covering certain LNP-encapsulated mRNAs coding for infectious disease antigens for use in prophylactic vaccination. Our mRNA chemistry, formulation and manufacturing patent applications and related know-how and trade secrets may also provide us with additional IP protection relating to our development candidates.
Our patent portfolio for our investigational medicines and development candidates features approximately 50 issued or scheduled-to-issue patents, with many additional pending applications in the U.S. and foreign jurisdictions directed to our development candidates.
For programs within our prophylactic vaccines modality, we typically pursue patent protection featuring composition of matter and method of use claims. Our global patent protection strategy may vary based on the unique geographic prevalence of various infectious diseases.
We have filed several patent applications covering our COVID-19 vaccine. Claims covering our COVID-19 vaccine compositions and methods of vaccinating subjects against SARS-CoV-2 infection with lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA encoding prefusion-stabilized Spike protein antigen are featured in a patent family that includes a pending PCT application, two pending U.S. patent applications, 7 pending U.S. provisional patent applications, and foreign patent applications filed in Argentina and Taiwan. Priority dates for these applications span a period from late January through late May 2020. The U.S. government has rights in certain of the foregoing patent applications. Issued U.S. Patent No. 10,702,600 includes claims to lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA encoding betacoronavirus spike protein. Claims to methods of using such compositions to elicit an immune response in subjects are featured an allowed and soon to be issued U.S. patent application featured. Corresponding vaccine composition and method of use claims are also featured in a pending European patent application. These patents and applications enjoy an October 2015 priority date.
Further coverage for our COVID-19 vaccine and many of our other prophylactic vaccines is found in a broad, infectious disease vaccine patent family featuring claims to lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNAs encoding infectious disease antigens and methods using such compositions for vaccination. This patent family includes two issued U.S. patents, two pending U.S. patent applications and pending patent applications in Europe, Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Russia, and Singapore. Issued U.S. Patent Nos. 10,022,435 and 10,709,779 feature claims directed to methods of vaccinating subjects against infection with lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNAs encoding infectious disease antigens.
Patent coverage for our human CMV vaccine, which includes mRNAs encoding several surface glycoproteins of the CMV virus, can be found in pending applications in Australia, Canada, Europe and Japan. In the United States, our CMV vaccine is covered in a pending U.S. patent application and in issued U.S. Patent Nos. 10,064,935, 10,383,937 and 10,716,846. Three provisional patent applications and a pending PCT application feature claims to clinical formulations of our CMV vaccine and methods of use.
Patent applications directed to our hMPV/PIV3 vaccine are pending in the United States, Europe and Hong Kong. Four U.S. patents have issued featuring hMPV/PIV3 vaccines with U.S. Patent No. 10,064,934 having claims covering LNP-encapsulated mRNA vaccines that encode the PIV3 and hMPV fusion proteins, U.S. Patent No. 10,272,150 having claims covering administration methods for these LNP-encapsulated mRNA vaccines, U.S. Patent No. 10,543,269 having claims covering vaccines that include HMPV-encoding mRNA formulated in LNPs, and U.S. Patent No. 10,702,599 having claims covering vaccines that include PIV3-encoding mRNA formulated in LNPs. A pending provisional patent application features claims to clinical aspects of our hMPV/PIV3 vaccine.
Our Zika mRNA vaccine is covered in a series of patent families directed to mosquito-borne viruses. These patent families include three issued U.S. Patents that cover our Zika vaccines, U.S. Patent Nos. 10,124,055, 10,449,244 and 10,653,767, several pending U.S. patent applications, one of which is recently allowed and soon to be issued as a U.S. patent, and several pending European and Hong Kong patent applications.
We filed patent applications in several jurisdictions covering RSV vaccines. At least two U.S. and two European patent applications are pending, as are applications in several African, Asian, European, Middle Eastern, South American, and other jurisdictions. Also pending is a provisional application featuring our pediatric RSV vaccine.
A pending provisional patent application includes claims covering our vaccine program for the prevention of human infection with seasonal influenza virus. The program also is protected by the broad, infectious disease vaccine patent family described above, in particular, issued U.S. Patent No. 9,872,900 having claims to HA-encoding mRNA vaccine compositions.
One of our earliest investigational medicines in the infectious disease pipeline, a vaccine containing mRNA encoding the H7 HA antigen for the prevention of infection with the influenza H7N9 avian influenza A virus is also protected by the broad, infectious disease vaccine patent family described above. In particular, issued U.S. Patent No. 9,872,900 includes claims to H7 mRNA vaccine compositions.
Pending patent applications in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan include claims covering our EBV vaccine and methods of use.
Pending patent applications in the United States and Europe include claims covering our Nipah vaccine and methods of use.
Composition of matter and method claims also protect programs within our cancer vaccines modality. Proprietary methods around the making and therapeutic use of our PCVs and resulting vaccine compositions are described and claimed in four pending U.S. patent applications, a pending PCT application, four pending European patent applications, three pending patent applications in each of Australia, Canada, and Japan, and one or two pending patent applications in each of India, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and South Africa. These applications also relate to various vaccine design formats, in particular, polyepitopic vaccine formats, and methods of treating cancer with such personalized cancer vaccines. We also possess substantial know-how and trade secrets relating to the development and commercialization of our cancer vaccine programs, including related manufacturing process and technology.
Likewise, our KRAS antigen cancer vaccine and methods of treating cancer featuring such vaccines are covered in issued U.S. Patent No. 10,881,730, which includes claims to lipid nanoparticle-encapsulated mRNA encoding mutant KRAS antigens, and in a pending U.S. patent application and pending applications in Australia, Canada, Europe, and Japan, as well as in several other European, South American, Asian and Middle Eastern jurisdictions.
To protect programs within our intratumoral immuno-oncology modality, we have filed numerous patent applications featuring claims to mRNAs encoding immune-stimulatory proteins and methods of treating cancer using such compositions.
Three of our immuno-oncology programs are designed to be administered intratumorally to alter the tumor microenvironment in favor of mounting an immune response against tumors. Our OX40L mRNA program and our mRNA program that includes mRNAs that encode OX40L, IL-23 and IL-36γ are covered by eight issued U.S. patents, U.S. Patent Nos. 10,143,723, 10,172,808, 10,285,950, 10,322,090, 10,322,191, 10,379,767, 10,383,951 and 10,406,113, by several pending U.S. patent applications, two of which are allowed and soon to issue, and by several pending patent applications in foreign jurisdictions including European, Asian, South American and other jurisdictions. These applications feature claims to the mRNA therapeutics as compositions of matter, formulations that include such mRNAs and methods of reducing tumors and treating cancer featuring these development candidates. Similar claims cover our IL-12 development candidate which can be found in issued U.S. Patent No. 10,646,549, and in pending patent applications in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, Europe and Japan, as well as several other jurisdictions in Asia, South America and the Middle East.
Localized regenerative therapeutics
Our localized regenerative therapeutics modality is focused on regenerative therapeutics. Our sole program, VEGF-A, is being developed in collaboration with AstraZeneca and is covered by a pending U.S. patent application and by several national phase patent applications filed in South American, Asian and Middle Eastern jurisdictions. The VEGF patent applications are solely-owned by Moderna.
Systemic intracellular therapeutics
Within our systemic intracellular therapeutics modality, we have four programs featuring expression of intracellular enzymes for the treatment of rare diseases. For our rare disease programs, we generally pursue patent protection featuring composition of matter and method of use claims, for example, pharmaceutical composition and method of treatment claims. Our most advanced rare disease development candidate, MMA, is covered by a patent family that includes two issued U.S. Patents, U.S. Patent No. 10,406,112 and U.S. Patent No. 10,426,738, two pending U.S. patent applications, a pending PCT patent application, and foreign patent applications filed in Australia, Canada, Japan, Europe and the Middle East.
For our PA development candidate, we have patent applications pending in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan which cover mRNA encoding the alpha and beta subunits of the enzyme propionyl-CoA carboxylase (PCCA and PCCB, respectively), for the treatment of PA.
For our PKU development candidate, we have a pending PCT and a pending provisional patent application covering mRNA encoding phenylalanine hydroxylase, or PAH, for the treatment of PKU.
For our Glycogen Storage Disorder, Type 1a (GSD1a) development candidate, we have 2 pending PCT and 2 pending provisional patent applications covering mRNA encoding glucose 6-phosphatase (G6Pase) for the treatment of this disorder.
Any U.S. and foreign patents that may issue from these four patent families would be expected to expire in 2036 for the earliest of the MMA patents and 2038-2041 for the remaining MMA, PA, PKU and GSD1a patents, excluding any patent term adjustments and any patent term extensions.
As further described below, we have filed or intend to file patent applications on these and other aspects of our technology and development candidates, and as we continue the development of our intended products, we plan to identify additional means of obtaining patent protection that would potentially enhance commercial success, including protection for additional methods of use, formulation, or manufacture.
Systemic secreted and cell-surface therapeutics
Our systemic secreted and cell-surface therapeutics modality features programs directed to expression of secreted or cell-surface proteins including antibodies, circulating modulation factors, secreted enzymes and transmembrane proteins. Our mRNA-encoded antibody against Chikungunya virus reported positive interim Phase 1 results in clinical trials and utilizes the same lipid nanoparticle (LNP) formulation being advanced for our MMA program and other rare disease programs. Patent protection for mRNA-encoded antibody against Chikungunya virus is being sought by way of a pending U.S. and European patent applications, in which we share joint ownership rights.
Our Relaxin development candidate is covered by several pending foreign patent applications outside the United States, for example, in several Asian, European, Middle Eastern, South American and other jurisdictions, and by a pending U.S. application and by issued U.S. Patent No. 10,730,924.
Our PD-L1 and IL-2 development candidates are covered in three recently filed U.S. provisional patent applications.
Our registered trademark portfolio currently contains at least 125 registered trademarks, consisting of at least 10 registrations in the United States and approximately 115 registrations in Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Singapore, Sweden, and under the Madrid Protocol. In addition, we have other pending trademark applications, consisting of trademark applications in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, the EU, Japan, Singapore, and under the Madrid Protocol.
In-licensed intellectual property
While we develop and manufacture our potential mRNA medicines using our internally created mRNA technology platform, we also seek out and evaluate third party technologies and IP that may be complementary to our platform.
Patent sublicense agreements with Cellscript and mRNA RiboTherapeutics
The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, owns several issued U.S. patents, granted European patents and pending U.S. patent applications directed, in part, to nucleoside-modified mRNAs and their uses, or the Penn Modified mRNA Patents. mRNA RiboTherapeutics, Inc., or MRT, obtained an exclusive license to the Penn Modified mRNA Patents and granted its affiliate, Cellscript, LLC, or Cellscript, a sublicense to the Penn Modified mRNA Patents in certain fields of use.
In June 2017, we entered into two sublicense agreements, one with Cellscript, and one with MRT, which agreements we collectively refer to as the Cellscript-MRT Agreements. Together, the Cellscript-MRT Agreements grant us a worldwide, sublicensable sublicense to the Penn Modified mRNA Patents to research, develop, make, and commercialize products covered by the Penn Modified mRNA Patents, or licensed products, for all in vivo uses in humans and animals, including therapeutic, prophylactic, and diagnostic applications. The Cellscript-MRT Agreements are non-exclusive, although Cellscript and MRT are subject to certain time restrictions on granting additional sublicenses for in vivo uses in humans under the Penn Modified mRNA Patents.
We paid Cellscript and MRT aggregate sublicense grant fees of $28 million upon entering into the Cellscript-MRT Agreements, $25 million in early 2018, and $22 million in early 2019. Cellscript and MRT are collectively eligible to receive, on a licensed product-by-licensed product basis, milestone payments totaling up to $0.5 million upon the achievement of certain regulatory-based events for diagnostic products, and milestone payments totaling up to $1.5 million upon the achievement of certain development and regulatory-based events for either therapeutic or prophylactic products, and up to $24 million upon the achievement of certain commercial-based events for either therapeutic or prophylactic products. The Cellscript-MRT Agreements require us to pay royalties based on annual net sales of licensed products at rates in the low single digits for therapeutic, prophylactic, and diagnostic uses, and royalties based on annual net sales of licensed products sold for research uses at rates in the mid-single digits, subject to certain reductions, with an aggregate minimum floor. Following the first commercial sale of licensed products under a Cellscript-MRT Agreement, we are required to pay Cellscript or MRT, as applicable, minimum annual royalties ranging from $10,000—$400,000 depending on the use of such licensed product, with all such payments creditable against earned royalties on net sales.
The Cellscript-MRT Agreements will expire upon the expiration or abandonment of the last to expire or become abandoned of the Penn Modified mRNA Patents. Cellscript or MRT, as applicable, may terminate its respective Cellscript-MRT Agreement if we fail to make required payments or otherwise materially breach the applicable agreement, subject to specified notice and cure provisions. Cellscript or MRT, as applicable, may also terminate the applicable Cellscript-MRT Agreement upon written notice in the event of our bankruptcy or insolvency or if we challenge the validity or enforceability of the Penn Modified mRNA Patents. We have the right to terminate each Cellscript-MRT Agreement at will upon 60 days’ prior notice to Cellscript or MRT, as applicable, provided that we cease all development and commercialization of licensed products upon such termination. If rights to MRT or Cellscript under the Penn Modified mRNA Patents are terminated (e.g., due to bankruptcy of MRT or Cellscript), the terminated party will assign its interest in the respective Cellscript-MRT Agreement to the licensor from which it received rights under the Penn Modified mRNA Patents and our rights will continue under the new licensor.
Formulation technology in-licenses
Our development candidates use internally developed formulation technology that we own. We do, however, have rights to use and exploit multiple issued and pending patents covering formulation technologies under licenses from other entities. If in the future we elect to use or to grant our strategic collaborators sublicenses to use these in-licensed formulation technologies, we or our strategic collaborators may be liable for milestone and royalty payment obligations arising from such use. We consider the commercial terms of these licenses and their provisions regarding diligence, insurance, indemnification and other similar matters, to be reasonable and customary for our industry.
In addition, we have entered into material transfer agreements that have provided us with opportunities to evaluate third party delivery systems.
We had approximately 1,300 full-time employees as of December 31, 2020, representing a 59% increase over our 830 full-time employees as of the end of the prior year. Of our total full-time employees as of December 31, 2020, nearly 600 joined us during the course of the year. This growth in our employee base has largely been as a result of developments related to our COVID-19 vaccine. We have undertaken significant hiring of employees to facilitate manufacturing of the vaccine, in addition to building out our commercial and regulatory organizations, as well as other functions, to support this roll-out. As part of this expansion, we have also increased our hiring outside the United States during 2020, and at year-end we had employees in Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada and Spain. Much of this hiring has been of talent with experience at other pharmaceutical companies as we seek to build out our commercial and regulatory capabilities, particularly at more senior levels of the company. We have also continued to hire talent to support our research and clinical capabilities across the rest of our pipeline, unrelated to our COVID-19 vaccine.
We operate in a highly competitive environment for human capital, particularly as we seek to attract and retain talent with experience in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors. Our workforce is highly educated, and as of December 31, 2020, 51% of our employees hold Ph.D., M.D., J.D., or Master’s degrees. Among our employees, 46% are female and 54% are male. Among our leadership (which we define as employees at the vice president level and above), as of December 31, 2020, approximately 37% are female, an increase from 35% in the prior year. 35% of our U.S. employees identify as racially or ethnically diverse as of December 31, 2020, an increase from 32% in the prior year. In 2020, we expanded our emphasis on belonging, inclusion & diversity, creating a Conscious Inclusion education series for senior leaders, conducting several internal seminars, panels, and discussions on inclusion, launching a new employee resource group in support of our Black and African American employees, and adding a full-time senior-level role focused on belonging, equity, inclusion and diversity.
To help promote alignment between our employees and our shareholders, all employees participate in our equity programs through the receipt of new hire and annual equity grants, and the percentage of equity as a component of overall pay mix increases with seniority. We believe that in addition to incentivizing growth that leads to shareholder value, broad eligibility for our equity programs helps promote employee retention as these awards generally vest over a four-year period.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we undertook several initiatives to ensure the safety of our workforce and continuity of our operations. We created a Response Team that was responsible for implementing safety measures testing at our Cambridge and Norwood sites. This included regular COVID-19 testing, temperature and health screening as well as implementing digital tools to facilitate contact tracing and providing personal protective equipment (PPE). Throughout the pandemic, much of our workforce has worked remotely, wherever possible. We also implemented remote hiring and onboarding programs to facilitate significant hiring during 2020 in a remote work environment. In December 2020, following the receipt of an Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA for our COVID-19 vaccine, we made the vaccine available to our employees and adult members of their households to help ensure continuity of our operations due to the critical nature of our production of the vaccine.
None of our employees is represented by a labor union, and none of our employees has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with us, other than a small number of employees in Spain who are covered by collective bargaining agreements governing certain benefits. We consider our employee relations to be good.
We believe that our employees are highly engaged, and we and our employees have been recognized by surveys conducted by external groups. Science magazine ranked us as a top employer for each of the last six years. We measure employee engagement through a vendor-supplied engagement software, using validated external benchmarks to track quarter-over-quarter employee engagement factors.
Our approach to attracting and retaining talent
We are committed to ensuring that our employees find that their careers at Moderna are filled with purpose, growth and fulfillment. We believe that a career at Moderna provides opportunity for:
•Impact: Our people will have the opportunity to do work that is unparalleled in terms of its innovation and scope of impact on people’s lives.
•Growth: For the intellectually curious, we provide incredible opportunities for growth. We invest in the development of our people as scientists and as leaders.
•Wellness: We are committed to the health and wellbeing of our employees and their families by providing family friendly benefits and opportunities to be healthy.
•Inclusive environment: We believe in the benefits of bringing together a diverse set of perspectives and backgrounds, and creating an environment where differences are celebrated and leveraged.
•Compelling rewards: To attract and retain the best talent, we provide competitive rewards that help to drive groundbreaking work and allow employees to share in the value we will create together, including through our equity programs.
Our approach to training our employees
We have established a structured training curriculum for our employees called Moderna University and have a full-time team dedicated to developing the curriculum and conducting activities for Moderna University. The objective of Moderna University is for every employee to be deeply familiar with our core technology and able to learn about technologies that might further enable our science. In addition, Moderna University is also focused on creating strong leaders through management and leadership training. There are four core areas within Moderna University including:
•Professional development: Includes on-site training programs for our employees including for example, leadership, tools to improve interpersonal communication, and project management.
•Digital learning library: We have built an online library of videos of a variety of scientific material that our employees can access flexibly. This content includes:
◦Presentations by external speakers to scientific seminars conducted in-house;
◦Scientific courses at external universities; and
◦Peer-to-peer video series in which in-house experts provide an introductory view of complex topics they tackle within their teams.
•Learning management system: We have deployed a digital system to track and administer training programs for each of our employees. Training content is developed digitally and offered to our employees.
•New hire orientation: This program is designed to onboard all new employees. During this training program, new employees meet with the management team and senior functional leaders to learn about the Company and functional activities.
To further develop and retain our workforce, we conduct periodic talent reviews that identify key talent within the organization. We use that data to inform specific development opportunities for key current and potential future leaders, and to support our periodic succession planning activities for key roles. These steps together ensure we have a robust understanding of our workforce and a talent pipeline to grow future leaders.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
In pursuit of our mission to deliver on the promise of mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients, we have scaled our operations, invested in research, and hired top-tier talent. As we continue to mature, we believe it is important to develop long-term programs that underscore our commitment to corporate social responsibility. Please refer to the “Citizenship” section of our website, which can be found at www.modernatx.com, for a description of some of the measures we have taken to support our commitment to corporate social responsibility.
The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries utilize rapidly advancing technologies and are characterized by intense competition. There is also a strong emphasis on intellectual property and proprietary products.
We believe that mRNA as a medicine coupled with our capabilities across mRNA technology, drug discovery, development, and manufacturing provide us with a competitive advantage. However, we will continue to face competition from different sources including major pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, academic institutions, government agencies, and public and private research institutions. For any products that we eventually commercialize, we will not only compete with existing therapies but also compete with new therapies that may become available in the future.
We face significant competition in the market for our COVID-19 vaccine, particularly from established pharmaceutical companies with longer operating histories and significant experience in producing and marketing pharmaceutical products. Competition for the sale of our COVID-19 vaccine can be impacted by a number of factors, including: the efficacy of our vaccine in preventing COVID-19 (particularly in the prevention of severe cases of COVID-19); the ability of our vaccine, or future iterations of the vaccine, to protect effectively against variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; perceptions of the efficacy of our vaccine; concerns about potential side effects from the vaccine, its safety or tolerability; the novelty of mRNA-based technology; storage and handling conditions for our vaccine and the ease or difficulty with which it can be distributed; and the fact that our COVID-19 vaccine requires two doses, whereas certain competitors’ vaccines may only require a single dose. The competitiveness of our COVID-19 vaccine in the future may also depend upon whether we are successful in efforts to combine this with other vaccines, like seasonal flu, and whether our competitors are successful in these efforts. Our competitive positioning may also be affected by the fact that we do not have as long a history of producing pharmaceutical products or existing commercial relationships compared to certain of our competitors.
We compete in the segment of pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. There are additional companies that are working on mRNA medicines, some of which have reached commercialization. Companies with mRNA programs include BioNTech (which has partnered with Pfizer for the production and commercialization of a COVID-19 vaccine) and CureVac (which also is developing a COVID-19 vaccine). Other competitors include eTheRNA Immunotherapies and Translate Bio and those with preclinical programs include Arcturus Therapeutics, Ethris, Genevant Sciences, Stemirna Therapeutics and GlaxoSmithKline. We also compete against other pharmaceutical companies in the market for COVID-19 vaccines that do not utilize mRNA-based technologies, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, among others.
Government authorities in the United States at the federal, state and local level and in other countries regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, approval, labeling, packaging, storage, record-keeping, promotion, advertising, distribution, post-approval monitoring and reporting, marketing and export and import of drug and biological products, such as our investigational medicines and any future investigational medicines. Generally, before a new drug or biologic can be marketed, considerable data demonstrating its quality, safety and efficacy must be obtained, organized into a format specific for each regulatory authority, submitted for review and approved by the regulatory authority.
U.S. drug and biological product development
In the United States, the FDA regulates drugs under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, or FDCA, and its implementing regulations and biologics under the FDCA, the Public Health Service Act, or PHSA, and their implementing regulations. Both drugs and biologics also are subject to other federal, state and local statutes and regulations. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with applicable federal, state and local statutes and regulations requires the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources. Failure to comply with the applicable U.S. requirements at any time during the product development process, approval process or following approval may subject an applicant to administrative or judicial sanctions. These sanctions could include, among other actions, the FDA’s refusal to approve pending applications, withdrawal of an approval, license revocation, a clinical hold, untitled or warning letters, voluntary or mandatory product recalls, market withdrawals, product seizures, total or partial
suspension of production or distribution, injunctions, fines, refusals of government contracts, restitution, disgorgement and civil or criminal penalties. Any agency or judicial enforcement action could have a material adverse effect on us.
Our investigational medicines and any future investigational medicines must be approved by the FDA through a biologics license application, or BLA, or new drug application, NDA process before they may be legally marketed in the United States. The process generally involves the following:
•completion of extensive preclinical studies in accordance with applicable regulations, including studies conducted in accordance with GLP requirements;
•submission to the FDA of an IND application, which must become effective before human clinical trials may begin;
•approval by an institutional review board, or IRB, or independent ethics committee at each clinical trial site before each trial may be initiated;
•performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials in accordance with applicable IND regulations, good clinical practice, or GCP, requirements and other clinical trial-related regulations to establish the safety and efficacy of the investigational product for each proposed indication;
•submission to the FDA of a BLA or an NDA;
•a determination by the FDA within 60 days of its receipt of a BLA or an NDA to accept the filing for review;
•satisfactory completion of one or more FDA pre-approval inspections of the manufacturing facility or facilities where the biologic or drug will be produced to assess compliance with cGMP requirements to assure that the facilities, methods and controls are adequate to preserve the biologic or drug’s identity, strength, quality and purity;
•potential FDA audit of the clinical trial sites that generated the data in support of the BLA or NDA;
•payment of user fees for FDA review of the BLA or NDA; and
•FDA review and approval of the BLA or NDA, including consideration of the views of any FDA advisory committee, prior to any commercial marketing or sale of the biologic or drug in the United States.
The preclinical and clinical testing and approval process requires substantial time, effort and financial resources, and we cannot be certain that any approvals for our investigational medicines and any future investigational medicines will be granted on a timely basis, or at all.
Before testing any biological or drug candidate, including our product candidates, in humans, the product candidate must undergo rigorous preclinical testing. Preclinical studies include laboratory evaluation of product chemistry and formulation, as well as in vitro and animal studies to assess the potential for adverse events and in some cases to establish a rationale for therapeutic use. The conduct of preclinical studies is subject to federal regulations and requirements, including GLP regulations for safety/toxicology studies. An IND sponsor must submit the results of the preclinical tests, together with manufacturing information, analytical data, any available clinical data or literature and plans for clinical studies, among other things, to the FDA as part of an IND. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational product to humans and must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. Some long-term preclinical testing may continue after the IND is submitted. An IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless before that time the FDA raises concerns or questions related to one or more proposed clinical trials and places the trial on clinical hold. In such a case, the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns before the clinical trial can begin. As a result, submission of an IND may not result in the FDA allowing clinical trials to commence.
The clinical stage of development involves the administration of the investigational product to healthy volunteers or patients under the supervision of qualified investigators, generally physicians not employed by or under the trial sponsor’s control, in accordance with GCP requirements, which include the requirement that all patients provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical trial. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the clinical trial, dosing procedures, subject selection and exclusion criteria and the parameters to be used to monitor subject safety and assess efficacy. Each protocol, and any subsequent amendments to the protocol, must be submitted to the FDA as part of the IND. Furthermore, each clinical trial must be reviewed and approved by an IRB for each institution at which the clinical trial will be conducted to ensure that the risks to individuals participating in the clinical trials are minimized and are reasonable in relation to anticipated benefits. The IRB also approves the informed consent form that must be provided to each clinical trial subject or his or her legal representative and must monitor the clinical trial until completed. There also are requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical trials and completed clinical trial results to public registries. Information about certain clinical trials, including clinical trial results, must be submitted within specific timeframes for publication on the www.clinicaltrials.gov website.
In addition to the submission of an IND to the FDA before initiation of a clinical trial in the United States, certain human clinical trials involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules had historically been subject to review by the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee, or RAC, of the National Institutes of Health, or NIH, Office of Biotechnology Activities, or the OBA, pursuant to the NIH
Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules, or NIH Guidelines. On August 17, 2018, the NIH issued a notice in the Federal Register and issued a public statement proposing changes to the oversight framework for gene therapy trials, including changes to the applicable NIH Guidelines to modify the roles and responsibilities of the RAC with respect to human clinical trials of gene therapy products, and requesting public comment on its proposed modifications. During the public comment period, which closed October 16, 2018, the NIH announced that it will no longer accept new human gene transfer protocols for review as a part of the protocol registration process or convene the RAC to review individual clinical protocols. In April 2019, NIH announced the updated guidelines, which reflect these proposed changes, and clarified that these trials will remain subject to the FDA’s oversight and other clinical trial regulations, and oversight at the local level will continue as set forth in the NIH Guidelines. Specifically, under the NIH Guidelines, supervision of human gene transfer trials includes evaluation and assessment by an institutional biosafety committee, or IBC, a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment, and such review may result in some delay before initiation of a clinical trial. While the NIH Guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving NIH funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them.
A sponsor who wishes to conduct a clinical trial outside of the United States may, but need not, obtain FDA authorization to conduct the clinical trial under an IND. If a foreign clinical trial is not conducted under an IND, the sponsor may submit data from the clinical trial to the FDA in support of a BLA or NDA. The FDA will accept a well-designed and well-conducted foreign clinical study not conducted under an IND if the study was conducted in accordance with GCP requirements, and the FDA is able to validate the data through an onsite inspection if deemed necessary.
Clinical trials generally are conducted in three sequential phases, known as Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, and may overlap.
•Phase 1 clinical trials generally involve a small number of healthy volunteers or disease-affected patients who are initially exposed to a single dose and then multiple doses of the product candidate. The primary purpose of these clinical trials is to assess the metabolism, pharmacologic action, side effect tolerability, and safety of the product candidate.
•Phase 2 clinical trials generally involve studies in disease-affected patients to evaluate proof of concept and/or determine the dosing regimen(s) for subsequent investigations. At the same time, safety and further pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic information is collected, possible adverse effects and safety risks are identified, and a preliminary evaluation of efficacy is conducted.
•Phase 3 clinical trials generally involve a large number of patients at multiple sites and are designed to provide the data necessary to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product for its intended use, its safety in use and to establish the overall benefit/risk relationship of the product, and provide an adequate basis for product labeling.
In August 2018, the FDA released a draft guidance entitled “Expansion Cohorts: Use in First-In-Human Clinical Trials to Expedite Development of Oncology Drugs and Biologics,” which outlines how drug developers can utilize an adaptive trial design commonly referred to as a seamless trial design in early stages of oncology drug development, i.e., the first-in-human clinical trial, to compress the traditional three phases of trials into one continuous trial called an expansion cohort trial. Information to support the design of individual expansion cohorts are included in IND applications and assessed by FDA. Expansion cohort trials can potentially bring efficiency to drug development and reduce developmental costs and time.
Post-approval trials, sometimes referred to as Phase 4 clinical trials, may be conducted after initial marketing approval. These trials are used to gain additional experience from the treatment of patients in the intended therapeutic indication and are commonly intended to generate additional safety data regarding use of the product in a clinical setting. In certain instances, the FDA may mandate the performance of Phase 4 clinical trials as a condition of approval of a BLA or NDA.
Progress reports detailing the results of the clinical trials, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA and written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and the investigators 15 calendar days after the trial sponsor determines the information qualifies for reporting for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies or animal or in vitro testing that suggest a significant risk for human subjects and any clinically important increase in the rate of a serious suspected adverse reaction over that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure. The sponsor also must notify the FDA of any unexpected fatal or life-threatening suspected adverse reaction as soon as possible but in no case later than seven calendar days after the sponsor’s initial receipt of the information.
Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3, and other types of clinical trials may not be completed successfully within any specified period, if at all. The FDA or the sponsor may suspend or terminate a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the patients are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk. Similarly, an IRB can suspend or terminate approval of a clinical trial at its institution if the clinical trial is not being conducted in accordance with the IRB’s requirements or if the drug or biologic has been associated with unexpected serious harm to patients. Additionally, some clinical trials are overseen by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical trial sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board or committee. This group provides
authorization for whether a trial may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the trial. Concurrent with clinical trials, companies usually complete additional animal studies and also must develop additional information about the chemistry and physical characteristics of the drug or biologic as well as finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product and, among other things, companies must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, and purity of the final product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the investigational medicines do not undergo unacceptable deterioration over their shelf life.
FDA review process
Following completion of the clinical trials, data are analyzed to assess whether the investigational product is safe and effective for the proposed indicated use or uses. The results of preclinical studies and clinical trials are then submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA or NDA, along with proposed labeling, chemistry, and manufacturing information to ensure product quality and other relevant data. A BLA is a request for approval to market a biologic for one or more specified indications and must contain proof of the biologic’s safety, purity, and potency. An NDA for a new drug must contain proof of the drug’s safety and efficacy. The marketing application may include both negative and ambiguous results of preclinical studies and clinical trials, as well as positive findings. Data may come from company-sponsored clinical trials intended to test the safety and efficacy of a product’s use or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by investigators. To support marketing approval, the data submitted must be sufficient in quality and quantity to establish the safety and efficacy of the investigational product to the satisfaction of the FDA. FDA approval of a BLA or NDA must be obtained before a biologic or drug may be marketed in the United States.
Under the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, or PDUFA, as amended, each BLA or NDA must be accompanied by a user fee. The FDA adjusts the PDUFA user fees on an annual basis. Fee waivers or reductions are available in certain circumstances, including a waiver of the application fee for the first application filed by a small business. Additionally, no user fees are assessed on BLAs or NDAs for products designated as orphan drugs, unless the product also includes a non-orphan indication.
The FDA reviews all submitted BLAs and NDAs before it accepts them for filing and may request additional information rather than accepting the BLA or NDA for filing. The FDA must make a decision on accepting a BLA or NDA for filing within 60 days of receipt, and such decision could include a refusal to file by the FDA. Once the submission is accepted for filing, the FDA begins an in-depth review of the BLA or NDA. Under the goals and policies agreed to by the FDA under PDUFA, the FDA has 10 months, from the filing date, in which to complete its initial review of an original BLA or NDA for a new molecular entity and respond to the applicant, and six months from the filing date of an original BLA or NDA designated for priority review. The FDA does not always meet its PDUFA goal dates for standard and priority BLAs and NDAs, and the review process is often extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification.
Before approving a BLA or NDA, the FDA will conduct a pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facilities for the new product to determine whether they comply with cGMP requirements. The FDA will not approve the product unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP requirements and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications.
The FDA also may audit data from clinical trials to ensure compliance with GCP requirements. Additionally, the FDA may refer applications for novel products or products which present difficult questions of safety or efficacy to an advisory committee, typically a panel that includes clinicians and other experts, for review, evaluation and a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved and under what conditions, if any. The FDA is not bound by recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations when making decisions on approval. The FDA likely will reanalyze the clinical trial data, which could result in extensive discussions between the FDA and the applicant during the review process. After the FDA evaluates a BLA or NDA, it will issue an approval letter or a Complete Response Letter. An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the biologic or drug with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A Complete Response Letter indicates that the review cycle of the application is complete, and the application will not be approved in its present form. A Complete Response Letter usually describes all of the specific deficiencies in the BLA or NDA identified by the FDA. The Complete Response Letter may require additional clinical data, additional pivotal Phase 3 clinical trial(s), and/or other significant and time-consuming requirements related to clinical trials, preclinical studies, or manufacturing. If a Complete Response Letter is issued, the applicant may either resubmit the BLA or NDA, addressing all of the deficiencies identified in the letter, or withdraw the application or request an opportunity for a hearing. Even if such data and information are submitted, the FDA may decide that the BLA or NDA does not satisfy the criteria for approval. Data obtained from clinical trials are not always conclusive and the FDA may interpret data differently than we interpret the same data.
Orphan drug designation
Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biological product intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or more than 200,000 individuals in the United States and for which there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making the product available in the United States for this type of disease or condition will be recovered from sales of the product.
Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting a BLA or NDA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA. Orphan drug designation on its own does not convey any advantage in or shorten the duration of the regulatory review and approval process.
If a product that has orphan designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications to market the same drug for the same indication for seven years from the date of such approval, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan exclusivity by means of greater effectiveness, greater safety, or providing a major contribution to patient care, or in instances of drug supply issues. Competitors, however, may receive approval of either a different product for the same indication or the same product for a different indication; in the latter case, because health care professionals are free to prescribe products for off-label uses, the competitor’s product could be used for the orphan indication despite our orphan exclusivity. Orphan drug exclusivity also could block the approval of one of our products for seven years if a competitor obtains approval before we do for the same drug and same indication, as defined by the FDA, for which we are seeking approval, or if our product is determined to be contained within the scope of the competitor’s product for the same indication or disease. If we pursue marketing approval for an indication broader than the orphan drug designation we have received, we may not be entitled to orphan drug exclusivity. Orphan drug status in the European Union, or EU, has similar, but not identical, requirements and benefits.
Expedited development and review programs
The FDA has a fast track program that is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new drugs and biologics that meet certain criteria. Specifically, new drugs and biologics are eligible for fast track designation if they are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preclinical or clinical data demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the condition. Fast track designation applies to both the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor can request the FDA to designate the product for fast track status any time before receiving BLA or NDA approval, but ideally no later than the pre-BLA or pre-NDA meeting. Any product submitted to the FDA for marketing, including under a fast track program, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite development and review, such as priority review and accelerated approval. Any product is eligible for priority review if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and, if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety and effectiveness compared to available therapies. The FDA will attempt to direct additional resources to the evaluation of an application for a new drug or biologic designated for priority review in an effort to facilitate the review.
A product may also be eligible for accelerated approval, if it treats a serious or life-threatening condition and generally provides a meaningful advantage over available therapies. In addition, it must demonstrate an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, or IMM, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on IMM or other clinical benefit. As a condition of approval, the FDA may require that a sponsor of a drug or biologic receiving accelerated approval perform adequate and well-controlled post-marketing clinical trials. If the FDA concludes that a drug or biologic shown to be effective can be safely used only if distribution or use is restricted, it will require such post-marketing restrictions, as it deems necessary to assure safe use of the product. If the FDA determines that the conditions of approval are not being met, the FDA can withdraw its accelerated approval for such drug or biologic.
Additionally, a drug or biologic may be eligible for designation as a breakthrough therapy if the product is intended, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs or biologics, to treat a serious or life-threatening condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product may demonstrate substantial improvement over currently approved therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. The benefits of breakthrough therapy designation include the same benefits as fast track designation, plus intensive guidance from the FDA to ensure an efficient drug development program.
Even if a product qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or the time period for FDA review or approval may not be shortened. Furthermore, fast track designation, priority review, accelerated approval, and breakthrough therapy designation do not change the standards for approval, but may expedite the development or approval process.
Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)
The Secretary of Health and Human Services may authorize unapproved medical products, including vaccines, to be marketed in the context of an actual or potential emergency that has been designated by the U.S. government. The COVID-19 pandemic has been designated as such a national emergency. After an emergency has been announced, the Secretary of Health and Human Services may authorize the issuance of and the FDA Commissioner may issue EUAs for the use of specific products based on criteria established by the FDCA, including that the product at issue may be effective in diagnosing, treating, or preventing serious or life-threatening diseases when there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives. An EUA is subject to additional conditions and restrictions and is product-specific. An EUA terminates when the emergency determination underlying the EUA terminates. An EUA is not a long-term alternative to obtaining FDA approval, licensure, or clearance for a product. FDA may revoke an EUA for a variety of
reasons, including where it is determined that the underlying health emergency no longer exists or warrants such authorization, so it is not possible to predict how long an EUA may remain in place.
Under the Pediatric Research Equity Act, as amended, a BLA or NDA or supplement to a BLA or NDA must contain data to assess the safety and efficacy of the drug for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and to support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which the product is safe and effective. The FDA may grant deferrals for submission of pediatric data or full or partial waivers. A sponsor who is planning to submit a marketing application for a drug that includes a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen, or new route of administration must submit an initial Pediatric Study Plan, or PSP, within 60 days of an end-of-Phase 2 meeting or, if there is no such meeting, as early as practicable before the initiation of the Phase 3 or Phase 2/3 study. The initial PSP must include an outline of the pediatric study or studies that the sponsor plans to conduct, including study objectives and design, age groups, relevant endpoints, and statistical approach, or a justification for not including such detailed information, and any request for a deferral of pediatric assessments or a full or partial waiver of the requirement to provide data from pediatric studies along with supporting information. The FDA and the sponsor must reach an agreement on the PSP. A sponsor can submit amendments to an agreed-upon initial PSP at any time if changes to the pediatric plan need to be considered based on data collected from preclinical studies, early phase clinical trials, and/or other clinical development programs.
Following approval of a new product, the manufacturer and the approved product are subject to continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, monitoring and record-keeping activities, reporting of adverse experiences, complying with promotion and advertising requirements, which include restrictions on promoting products for unapproved uses or patient populations (known as ‘‘off-label use’’), and limitations on industry-sponsored scientific and educational activities. Although physicians may prescribe legally available products for off-label uses, manufacturers may not market or promote such uses. Prescription drug and biologic promotional materials must be submitted to the FDA in conjunction with their first use. Further, if there are any modifications to the drug or biologic, including changes in indications, labeling or manufacturing processes or facilities, the applicant may be required to submit and obtain FDA approval of a new BLA or NDA or BLA or NDA supplement, which may require the development of additional data or preclinical studies and clinical trials.
The FDA may also place other conditions on approvals including the requirement for a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, to assure the safe use of the product. If the FDA concludes a REMS is needed, the sponsor of the BLA or NDA must submit a proposed REMS. The FDA will not approve the BLA or NDA without an approved REMS, if required. A REMS could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries, and other risk minimization tools. Any of these limitations on approval or marketing could restrict the commercial promotion, distribution, prescription or dispensing of products. Newly discovered or developed safety or effectiveness data may require changes to a drug’s approved labeling, including the addition of new warnings and contraindications, and also may require the implementation of other risk management measures, including a REMS or the conduct of post-marketing studies to assess a newly discovered safety issue. Product approvals may be withdrawn for non-compliance with regulatory standards, or if problems occur following initial marketing.
FDA regulations require that products be manufactured in specific approved facilities and in accordance with cGMP regulations. In addition to our own manufacturing facilities, we rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties for the production of certain clinical and commercial quantities of our products in accordance with cGMP regulations. We, and these manufacturers must comply with cGMP regulations that require, among other things, quality control and quality assurance, the maintenance of records and documentation, and the obligation to investigate and correct any deviations from cGMP. Manufacturers and other entities involved in the manufacture and distribution of approved drugs or biologics are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP requirements and other laws. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain cGMP compliance. The discovery of violative conditions, including failure to conform to cGMP regulations, could result in enforcement actions, and the discovery of problems with a product after approval may result in restrictions on a product, manufacturer, or holder of an approved BLA or NDA, including recall.
U.S. patent term restoration and marketing exclusivity
Depending upon the timing, duration, and specifics of FDA approval of our investigational medicines and any future investigational medicines, some of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent
Term Restoration Act of 1984, commonly referred to as the Hatch Waxman Amendments. The Hatch Waxman Amendments permit restoration of the patent term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during product development and FDA regulatory review process. Patent term restoration, however, cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the product’s approval date. The patent term restoration period is generally one half the time between the effective date of an IND and the submission date of a BLA or NDA, plus the time between the submission date of a BLA or NDA and the approval of that application, except that the review period is reduced by any time during which the applicant failed to exercise due diligence. Only one patent applicable to an approved drug is eligible for such an extension and the application for the extension must be submitted prior to the expiration of the patent. The USPTO, in consultation with the FDA, reviews and approves the application for any patent term extension or restoration. In the future, we may apply for restoration of patent term for our currently owned or licensed patents to add patent life beyond the current expiration date, depending on the expected length of the clinical trials and other factors involved in the filing of the relevant BLA or NDA.
Marketing exclusivity provisions under the FDCA can also delay the submission or the approval of certain marketing applications. The FDCA provides three years of marketing exclusivity for an NDA, or supplement to an existing NDA, if new clinical investigations, other than bioavailability studies, that were conducted or sponsored by the applicant are deemed by the FDA to be essential to the approval of the application, for example for new indications, dosages, or strengths of an existing drug. This three-year exclusivity covers only the modification for which the drug received approval on the basis of the new clinical investigations and does not prohibit the FDA from approving abbreviated new drug applications, or ANDAs, for drugs containing the active agent for the original indication or condition of use. The FDCA also provides a five-year period of non-patent marketing exclusivity within the United States to the first applicant to obtain approval of an NDA for a new chemical entity. A drug is a new chemical entity if the FDA has not previously approved any other new drug containing the same active moiety, which is the molecule or ion responsible for the action of the drug substance.
During the exclusivity period, the FDA may not accept for review an ANDA or a 505(b)(2) NDA submitted by another company for another drug based on the same active moiety, regardless of whether the drug is intended for the same indication as the original innovator drug or for another indication, where the applicant does not own or have a legal right of reference to all the data required for approval. However, an application may be submitted after four years if it contains a certification of patent invalidity or non-infringement to one of the patents listed with the FDA by the innovator NDA holder. Three-year and five-year exclusivity will not delay the submission or approval of a full NDA. However, an applicant submitting a full NDA would be required to conduct or obtain a right of reference to all of the nonclinical studies and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials necessary to demonstrate safety and efficacy.
An abbreviated approval pathway for biological products shown to be biosimilar to, or interchangeable with, an FDA-licensed reference biological product was created by the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009, or BPCI Act. This amendment to the PHSA, in part, attempts to minimize duplicative testing. Biosimilarity, which requires that the biological product be highly similar to the reference product notwithstanding minor differences in clinically inactive components and that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical trial or trials. Interchangeability requires that a biological product be biosimilar to the reference product and that the product can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products administered multiple times to an individual, that the product and the reference product may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biological product without such alternation or switch.
A reference biological product is granted 12 years of data exclusivity from the time of first licensure of the product and the FDA will not accept an application for a biosimilar or interchangeable product based on the reference biological product until four years after the date of first licensure of the reference product. ‘‘First licensure’’ typically means the initial date the particular product at issue was licensed in the United States. Date of first licensure does not include the date of licensure of (and a new period of exclusivity is not available for) a biological product if the licensure is for a supplement for the biological product or for a subsequent application by the same sponsor or manufacturer of the biological product (or licensor, predecessor in interest, or other related entity) for a change (not including a modification to the structure of the biological product) that results in a new indication, route of administration, dosing schedule, dosage form, delivery system, delivery device or strength, or for a modification to the structure of the biological product that does not result in a change in safety, purity, or potency.
Pediatric exclusivity is another type of regulatory market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing regulatory exclusivity periods. This six month exclusivity may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric trial in accordance with an FDA issued ‘‘Written Request’’ for such a trial.
European Union drug development
In the EU, our future products also may be subject to extensive regulatory requirements. As in the United States, medicinal products can be marketed only if a marketing authorization from the competent regulatory agencies has been obtained.
Similar to the United States, the various phases of preclinical and clinical research in the European Union are subject to significant regulatory controls. Although the EU Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC has sought to harmonize the EU clinical trials regulatory framework, setting out common rules for the control and authorization of clinical trials in the EU, the EU Member States have transposed and applied the provisions of the Directive differently. This has led to significant variations in the Member State regimes. Under the current regime, before a clinical trial can be initiated it must be approved in each of the EU countries where the trial is to be conducted by two distinct bodies: the National Competent Authority, or NCA, and one or more Ethics Committees, or ECs. Under the current regime all suspected unexpected serious adverse reactions to the investigated drug that occur during the clinical trial have to be reported to the NCA and ECs of the Member State where they occurred.
The EU clinical trials legislation currently is undergoing a transition process mainly aimed at harmonizing and streamlining clinical trial authorization, simplifying adverse event reporting procedures, improving the supervision of clinical trials, and increasing their transparency. In April 2014, the EU adopted a new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014, which is set to replace the current Clinical Trials Directive 2001/20/EC. It is expected that the new Clinical Trials Regulation (EU) No 536/2014 will apply following confirmation of full functionality of the Clinical Trials Information System (CTIS), the centralized EU portal and database for clinical trials foreseen by the Regulation, through an independent audit, currently expected to occur in December 2021. It will overhaul the current system of approvals for clinical studies in the EU. Specifically, the new Regulation, which will be directly applicable in all Member States (and so does not require national implementing legislation in each Member State), aims at simplifying and streamlining the approval of clinical studies in the EU. For instance, the new Regulation provides for a streamlined application procedure via a single point and strictly defined deadlines for the assessment of clinical study applications.
Pediatric investigation plan
An application for marketing authorization of a medicinal product for human use which is not yet authorized in the EU shall be considered valid only if it includes a Pediatric Investigational Plan, or PIP, according to Regulation (EC) No. 1901/2006 unless a waiver applies (e.g., because the relevant disease or condition occurs only in adults). The PIP or the application for waiver shall be submitted with a request for agreement, except in duly justified cases, early during the product development phase and not later than upon completion of the human pharmacokinetic studies in healthy subjects. The end of Phase 1 pharmacokinetic studies can coincide with the initial tolerability studies, or the initiation of the adult Phase 2 studies (proof-of-concept studies); in any case, submission of the PIP cannot be after initiation of pivotal trials or confirmatory (Phase 3) trials.
The Pediatric Committee, a scientific committee established at the Community level, shall assess the content of any PIP, waivers, and deferrals for a medicinal product submitted to it in accordance with the regulation on medicinal products for pediatric use and formulate an opinion thereon.
European drug review and approval
In the European Economic Area, or EEA, which is comprised of the 27 Member States of the EU and Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, medicinal products can only be commercialized after obtaining a Marketing Authorization, or MA. There are two types of marketing authorizations.
The Community MA is issued by the European Commission through the Centralized Procedure, based on the opinion of the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use, or CHMP, of the EMA, and is valid throughout the entire territory of the EEA. The Centralized Procedure is mandatory for certain types of products, such as biotechnology medicinal products, orphan medicinal products, advanced therapy medicines such as gene therapy, somatic cell therapy or tissue engineered medicines, and medicinal products containing a new active substance indicated for the treatment of HIV, AIDS, cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, autoimmune, and other immune dysfunctions and viral diseases. For those products for which the use of the Centralized Procedure is not mandatory, applicants may elect to use the Centralized Procedure where either the product contains a new active substance not yet authorized in the EEA, or where the applicant can show that the product constitutes a significant therapeutic, scientific, or technical innovation or for which the Centralized Procedure is in the interest of patients at a European level.
National Marketing Authorizations, which are issued by the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA and only cover their respective territory, are available for products not falling within the mandatory scope of the Centralized Procedure. Where a product has already been authorized for marketing in a Member State of the EEA, this National Marketing Authorization can be recognized in another Member State through the Mutual Recognition Procedure. If the product has not received a National Marketing Authorization in any Member State at the time of application, it can be approved simultaneously in various Member States through the
Decentralized Procedure. Under the Decentralized Procedure an identical dossier is submitted to the competent authorities of each of the Member States in which the marketing authorization is sought, one of which is selected by the applicant as the Reference Member State, or RMS. The competent authority of the RMS prepares a draft assessment report, a draft summary of the product characteristics, or SPC, and a draft of the labeling and package leaflet, which are sent to the other Member States (referred to as the Concerned Member States) for their approval. If the Concerned Member States raise no objections, based on a potential serious risk to public health, in relation to the assessment, SPC, labeling, or packaging proposed by the RMS, the product is subsequently granted a national marketing authorization in all the Member States (i.e., in the RMS and the Concerned Member States).
Under the above described procedures, before granting the marketing authorization, the EMA or the competent authorities of the Member States of the EEA make an assessment of the risk benefit balance of the product on the basis of scientific criteria concerning its quality, safety, and efficacy.
Now that the UK (which comprises Great Britain and Northern Ireland) has left the European Union, Great Britain will no longer be covered by centralized MAs (under the Northern Irish Protocol, centralized marketing authorizations will continue to be recognized in Northern Ireland). All medicinal products with a current centralized marketing authorization were automatically converted to Great Britain MAs on January 1, 2021. For a period of two years from January 1, 2021, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or MHRA, the UK medicines regulator, may rely on a decision taken by the European Commission on the approval of a new marketing authorization in the centralized procedure, in order to more quickly grant a new Great Britain MA. A separate application will, however, still be required.
In the EEA, new innovative products authorized for marketing (i.e., reference products) qualify for eight years of data exclusivity and an additional two years of market exclusivity upon the grant of a marketing authorization. During the period of data exclusivity generic or biosimilar applicants may not reference the innovator’s preclinical or clinical trial data contained in the dossier of the reference product when applying for a generic or biosimilar marketing authorization for a period of eight years from the date on which the reference product was first authorized in the EEA. During the additional two-year period of market exclusivity, a generic or biosimilar marketing authorization application can be submitted, and the innovator’s data may be referenced, but no generic or biosimilar product can be marketed until the expiration of the market exclusivity period. The overall 10-year period will be extended to a maximum of 11 years if, during the first eight years of those 10 years, the marketing authorization holder obtains an authorization for one or more new therapeutic indications which, during the scientific evaluation prior to their authorization, are determined to bring a significant clinical benefit in comparison with currently approved therapies. Even if an innovative medicinal product gains the prescribed period of data exclusivity, another company may market another version of the product if such company obtained a marketing authorization based on an application with a completely independent data package of pharmaceutical tests, preclinical tests and clinical trials.
European orphan designation and exclusivity
In the EEA, the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products grants orphan drug designation to promote the development of products that are intended for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of life threatening or chronically debilitating conditions affecting not more than five in 10,000 persons in the EU community, or where it is unlikely that the development of the medicine would generate sufficient return to justify the necessary investment in its development, and in each case for which no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment has been authorized (or, if a method exists, the product would be a significant benefit to those affected).
In the EEA, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as reduction of fees or fee waivers and 10 years of market exclusivity is granted following medicinal product approval. This period may be reduced to six years if, at the end of the fifth year, it is established that the orphan drug designation criteria are no longer met, including where it is shown that the product is sufficiently profitable not to justify maintenance of market exclusivity. During the period of market exclusivity, marketing authorization may only be granted to a “similar medicinal product” for the same therapeutic indication if: (i) a second applicant can establish that its product, although similar to the authorized product, is safer, more effective or otherwise clinically superior; (ii) the marketing authorization holder for the authorized product consents to a second orphan medicinal product application; or (iii) the marketing authorization holder for the authorized product cannot supply enough orphan medicinal product. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting an application for marketing approval. Orphan drug designation does not convey any advantage in, or shorten the duration of, the regulatory review and approval process.
European data collection
The collection and use of personal health data in the EU is governed by the provisions of the Data Protection Directive, and as of May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This directive imposes several requirements relating to the consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, the information provided to the individuals, notification of data processing obligations to the competent national data protection authorities, and the security and confidentiality of the personal data. The Data Protection Directive and GDPR also impose strict rules on the transfer of personal data out of the EU to the United States. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Directive, the GDPR, and the related national data protection laws of the EU Member States may result in fines and other administrative penalties. The GDPR introduces new data protection requirements in the EU and substantial fines for breaches of the data protection rules. The GDPR regulations may impose additional responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms ensuring compliance with the new data protection rules. This may be onerous and adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
European Union drug marketing
Much like the Anti-Kickback Statute prohibition in the United States, the provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order, or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the EU. Infringement of relevant EU laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.
Payments may be made to physicians in limited circumstances, and in certain EU Member States such payments must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians for the provision of services often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician’s employer, his or her competent professional organization, and/or the regulatory authorities of the individual EU Member States. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes, or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the EU Member States. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines, or imprisonment.
Brexit and the Regulatory Framework in the United Kingdom
On June 23, 2016, the electorate in the UK voted in favor of leaving the EU (commonly referred to as Brexit). Thereafter, on March 29, 2017, the country formally notified the EU of its intention to withdraw pursuant to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The UK formally left the EU on January 31, 2020. A transition period began on February 1, 2020, during which EU pharmaceutical law remained applicable to the UK, however this ended on December 31, 2020. Since the regulatory framework in the UK covering quality, safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, clinical trials, marketing authorization, commercial sales and distribution of pharmaceutical products is deri