mRNA Technological Solutions to Create New Medicines
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 feature.
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:
mRNA Prophylactic Vaccines
We designed our prophylactic vaccines modality to prevent or control infectious diseases. Since we nominated our first program in late 2014, this modality has grown to include nine programs, 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.
Within this modality, our portfolio includes programs for both commercial and global health uses. We have strategic alliances with Merck on select commercial vaccines, and BARDA and DARPA on global health vaccine programs.
mRNA Cancer Vaccines
We designed our cancer vaccines modality to treat or cure cancer by enhancing immune responses to tumor neoantigens. 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.
mRNA Intratumoral Immuno-Oncology
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. This modality currently has three programs. 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 the tumor microenvironment 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.
mRNA Localized Regenerative Therapeutics
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 recently completed a Phase 1a/b clinical trial in which we observed in patients dose-dependent protein production and a pharmacologic effect, as measured by changes in local blood flow. We believe this data provides clinical proof of mechanism for our mRNA technology outside of the vaccine setting.
mRNA Systemic Secreted & Cell Surface Therapeutics
We designed our systemic secreted & cell surface 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 benefitted from our strategic alliances with AstraZeneca, DARPA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This modality currently has three programs.
mRNA Systemic Intracellular Therapeutics
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 modality is on rare genetic diseases. This modality currently has three programs.