November 15, 2017
Armed with powerful technologies and experienced leadership, two Cambridge-based and KI faculty-founded startups are going full steam ahead. Moderna, co-founded by David H. Koch Institute Professor Robert Langer, announced that it has begun Phase 1 clinical trials for its mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccine, mRNA-4157. The potential behind this novel vaccine comes from the company's algorithms that allow it to predict which of the mutations found in a patient's cancer cells will elicit the strongest immune response based on the unique characteristics of that patient’s immune system. Then, within two weeks, the company uses the data to create a customized vaccine that will lead to better recognition and destruction of cancer cells. In this trial, Moderna is also collaborating with Merck to determine the effects of combining their vaccine with Merck’s Anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. Earlier this fall, Moderna announced the initiation of a Phase 1 trial for mRNA-2416, the company's first immuno-oncology therapeutic clinical study. In other immunotherapy news, Torque pulled out of stealth mode with $25 million in Series A capital from Flagship Pioneering. Torque, co-founded by KI Associate Director Darrell Irvine, is developing a platform to anchor powerful stimulatory cytokines, antibodies, and small molecules directly to immune cell therapeutics to increase their efficacy and durability in the hostile tumor microenvironment.