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ModeX Therapeutics inks license and collaboration agreement with Merck to develop Epstein-Barr Virus vaccine candidate

Thursday, March 9, 2023, 16:00 Hrs  [IST]

OPKO Health, Inc. announced that ModeX Therapeutics, Inc., an OPKO Health company, entered into an exclusive worldwide license and collaboration agreement with Merck, known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, for the development of MDX-2201, ModeX’s preclinical nanoparticle vaccine candidate targeting Epstein-Barr virus (EBV).

“We are delighted to enter this collaboration with Merck to develop a vaccine against EBV, a virus that takes a profound toll on human health worldwide. Targeting four proteins used by EBV to infect cells, this vaccine candidate embodies the novel multitargeting approach developed by ModeX scientists,” said Gary Nabel, M.D., Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of ModeX and chief innovation officer of OPKO.

Under the terms of the agreement, OPKO will receive an upfront payment of $50 million and is eligible for milestone payments associated with progress in the development and commercialization of MDX-2201 of up to $872.5 million, as well as royalties on global sales.

ModeX and Merck will jointly advance MDX-2201 to an Investigational New Drug (IND) application filing, after which Merck will be responsible for clinical and regulatory activities, as well as product commercialization. Pre-IND filing activity will be guided by a joint steering committee comprised of representatives from both companies.

“We founded ModeX to develop innovative multispecific biologics for cancer and infectious diseases that target multifactorial pathways that cause illness,” said Elias Zerhouni, M.D., president and vice chairman of OPKO. “This first collaboration leverages our scientific excellence and innovative platforms along with Merck’s discovery and clinical development expertise with the goal of benefiting patients around the world.”

“Through the acquisition of ModeX, we broadened our technology foundation and expanded our product pipeline into new therapeutic areas,” said Phillip Frost, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of OPKO. “Merck represents the ideal partner to develop and commercialize a new vaccine candidate, and we are particularly proud to enter into this high-potential agreement so soon after completing the ModeX transaction last May.”

“At Merck we have a proud legacy of developing vaccines including several that have the potential to help protect against certain types of cancer,” said Tarit Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., vice president, infectious diseases and vaccine discovery, Merck Research Laboratories. “We look forward to working with the ModeX Therapeutics team to apply our experience and expertise to evaluate the potential of MDX-2201 to help protect against EBV infection and other, potentially related, conditions.”

MDX-2201 is based on ModeX’s ferritin nanoparticle vaccine platform, which can express as many as 24 copies of a recombinant antigen on its surface to enhance the presentation of key components of the virus and stimulate durable protective immunity. MDX-2201 presents antigens from four viral proteins involved in viral entry into host cells. These include a recombinant antigen designed from the proteins gH, gL and gp42, as well as an antigen derived from gp350. By using ModeX’s multi-targeted approach, this combination inhibits infection in two cell types, B cells and epithelial cells, which contrasts from efforts that previously focused on gp350 alone.

This EBV vaccine technology was the subject of preclinical data published in May 2022 in Science Translational Medicine. ModeX scientists previously worked at the Vaccine Research Center, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Sanofi in the early development of this vaccine candidate. This project also involved collaboration with scientists at the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, NIAID.

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a member of the herpes virus family, is one of the most common human viruses. Most people are infected with EBV at some point during their lives. EBV can cause infectious mononucleosis, also called mono, and is associated with other illnesses, including some specific types of cancer and multiple sclerosis. There are currently no FDA approved vaccines or treatments for EBV infection.

ModeX Therapeutics is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company developing innovative multispecific biologics for cancer and infectious disease.

OPKO is a multinational biopharmaceutical and diagnostics company that seeks to establish industry-leading positions in large, rapidly growing markets by leveraging its discovery, development, and commercialization expertise and novel and proprietary technologies.


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