CureVac (NASDAQ:CVAC) recently announced that Boehringer Ingelheim terminated a partnership on a messenger RNA lung cancer vaccine program. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Aug. 18, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not this canceled deal spells trouble for other mRNA cancer vaccines in development.
Keith Speights: There's another smaller COVID-19 vaccine maker that we don't talk about a lot. We've discussed this company on occasion. It's a German biotech, CureVac, the ticker there is C-V-A-C. The company, like Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA), is focused on mRNA vaccines.
CureVac announced recently that it's big partner, Boehringer Ingelheim, had terminated a $600 million plus partnership on an mRNA lung cancer vaccine program. Brian, what happened here? Do you think this at all raises concerns about other mRNA cancer vaccines that are in development by other companies?
Brian Orelli: Yeah, well, mRNA companies they have obviously become famous for their coronavirus vaccines. There are multiple companies that are working on using the technology, too, as treatments for cancer.
CureVac and privately held Boehringer Ingelheim have had a partnership since 2014. BI dropped the project and CureVac gets to keep the 45 million that it got up front back in 2014. It won't get any of the remaining milestones but it does regain full rights to the drug starting in November.
That drug is in a phase 1/2 clinical trial. I'm not really sure how valuable that is, CureVac has better delivery technology than it did back in 2014. I think this might be more of a symptom of the rapidly evolving mRNA space than saying that the mRNA cancer vaccine doesn't necessarily work.
I think that's more of just BI dropping the project because it sees that next-generation technology that would be better than this technology that was from seven years ago. I'm not sure we can really extrapolate much to the other cancer vaccine treatments from the BI dropping this project.
Speights: Yeah, that's a good point. Sometimes investors see something like this happen and wonder, "Oh, is this going to impact Moderna's cancer vaccine program?" Like you said Brian, there probably aren't really any connections at all.
By the way, I was just pulling up Moderna's pipeline, the company does have a personalized cancer vaccine that it's developing. It's in a phase 2 program. It's one that they are partnering with Merck on. Then they have another cancer vaccine that's in phase 1 testing, they're also partnering with Merck on, so Moderna is definitely focusing on this.
BioNTech, I don't have their pipeline pulled up right now, but that's another company that is really focusing pretty heavily on mRNA cancer vaccines.
Orelli: Yeah, they have quite a few, maybe more than Moderna does.
Speights: Right. In fact, I guess we could pull it up, but BioNTech's pipeline is skewed heavily toward cancer vaccines and not just mRNA, but a lot of it's mRNA focused.