Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Mass.-based developer of messenger RNA (mRNA) Therapeutics, has launched Caperna, its fourth Moderna venture, which will focus exclusively on the advancement of personalized cancer vaccines.
Caperna will apply Moderna’s mRNA vaccine technology to the field of cancer vaccines, building on advances in recent years in cancer immunotherapy, including the availability of checkpoint inhibitors and the ability to rapidly determine individual patient mutations. Caperna will develop personalized cancer vaccines that encode a patient’s specific neoepitopes, utilizing Moderna’s unique infrastructure to manufacture within weeks small batches of vaccines tailored to each patient.
Substantial efforts at Moderna’s infectious disease venture Valera have demonstrated preclinical efficacy of Moderna’s mRNA-based vaccines in multiple viral disease models, which has led to the nomination of several viral vaccine development candidates. Those advancements have spurred the formation of Caperna and the pursuit of vaccine development for the treatment of cancer.
Tal Zaks, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer of Moderna, who was formerly senior vice president and head of global oncology at Sanofi, will serve as interim president of Caperna. Nicholas Valiante, Ph.D., who recently joined Moderna from Novartis Vaccines where he was global head of immunology and immunotherapy research, will serve as vice president and head of personalized vaccine sciences.