December 20, 2022 : Lack of faith has never been a challenge for Moderna and its CEO.
An uncompromising belief in messenger RNA, or mRNA, aka the genetic technology at the heart of its technology platform, helped Moderna design a coronavirus vaccine in record time in 2020. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel is drafting another audacious goal: upending how cancer is ministered, including finding and treating cancer in apparently healthy people at their yearly physicals.
Recently, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech stated a midstage study in skin cancer advanced, as its vaccine reduced the likelihood that people would perish from cancer returning. The $77 billion biotech witnessed its stock price jump 20% Tuesday after the results were declared.
In a discussion, Bancel shared his vision of how these personalized cancer vaccines could alter cancer care. Similar to how Bancel talked about the necessity to spend billions on manufacturing capability or how Moderna planned to charge its COVID-19 vaccine in the earlier months of 2020, he is now speaking about the future of these cancer programs well before they are commercially endorsed.
In addendum to launching a flurry of late-stage research for its cancer vaccine in 2023, Bancel expressed his team is also interested in bearing advantage of the new field of blood-cancer tests dubbed liquid biopsies.
Organizations like Illumina’s Grail, Exact Sciences, and Freenome are now generating these cancer-screening tests, that could be a $50 billion-plus market, as per the analysts at the investment bank SVB Securities.
“Possibly, potentially, as liquid biopsy enhances as a technology, you could see a world, conceivably in some years, where you do your blood result for your physical exam, a liquid biopsy is conducted on your blood, it witnesses an early sign of cancer, we create a cancer vaccine for you, and you can get the vaccine,” Bancel told.
The plan would be to kill cancer in its beginning before it even grows into a tumor that routine imaging techniques like PET scans can notice. Based on the blood work, Moderna would design vaccines that look at the genetic mutations in cancerous cells that stand out from healthy cells. Just as the COVID-19 vaccine, these shots employ mRNA to get inside immune cells and instruct those cells to create particular proteins that help fight that person’s cancer.
Bancel did not specify precisely how Moderna could work with liquid biopsies, such as collaborating with diagnostic companies.