CureVac and MD Anderson Cancer Center Collaborate on mRNA Cancer Vaccines

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The collaboration will focus on differentiated cancer vaccine candidates in hematological and solid tumor indications to treat unmet medical needs.

CureVac, a biopharmaceutical company that develops messenger RNA (mRNA) medicines, announced on April 16, 2024, a co-development and licensing agreement with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is focused on cancer patient care, research, education, and prevention. The collaboration will center on developing mRNA treatments for cancer with CureVac and MD Anderson jointly contributing to and supporting the development of the treatments. CureVac will have worldwide exclusive rights to late-stage development, commercialization, or partnering of the candidates. MD Anderson is eligible for certain payments downstream based on the potential for future commercialization.

CureVac will combine its end-to-end capabilities for cancer antigen discovery, mRNA design, and manufacturing with MD Andersson’s expertise in cancer antigen discovery and validation, translational drug development, and clinical research. The partnership will focus on developing vaccines for hematological and solid tumor indications, specifically for unmet needs. Both groups will help to identify differential cancer antigens based on whole genome sequencing along with long- and short-read RNA sequencing.

Sachet Shukla, PhD, assistant professor of Hematopoietic Biology & Malignancy and director of the department’s cancer vaccine program, and MD Anderson’s Evolution of Cancer, Leukemia, and Immunity Post Stem cEll transplant (ECLIPSE) platform, part of the institution’s Therapeutics Discovery division, will support preclinical validation of the highest-quality cancer antigens. MD Anderson will then conduct initial Phase I/II studies of the validated candidates after completion of investigational new drug approvals.

“Our ECLIPSE team uses proprietary high-throughput technology to identify and validate immune targets, and we are driven to advance impactful immunotherapies with the potential to transform the lives of patients with cancer,” said Jeffrey Molldrem, MD, chair of Hematopoietic Biology and Malignancy and leader of the ECLIPSE platform at MD Anderson, in a press release (1). “Together with CureVac, we hope to embrace this exciting area of drug discovery and development in pursuit of mRNA vaccines that will address significant unmet medical need.”

“We are excited for cancer vaccines to potentially emerge as an essential therapeutic tool in the future,” Shukla said in the release. “This collaboration with CureVac is an important milestone in our efforts and brings together complementary strengths toward our goal of developing transformative vaccines for cancer.”


“We look forward to collaborating with the team at MD Anderson to push the boundaries of mRNA technology and develop impactful therapeutic options for patients in need,” said Alexander Zehnder, chief executive officer of CureVac, in the release. “In combining our respective expertise, we believe we can go further and faster to develop novel, off-the-shelf, mRNA-based cancer vaccines that have the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes.”

In a November 2023 interview with Pharmaceutical Technology® (2), Zehnder discussed mRNA advances and how CureVac has embarked on The CureVac method, which was developed from the cumulation of many years of work, research, and nucleotide analysis—all in the name of overcoming the instability of mRNA molecules. The company analyzed millions of naturally occurring sequences to develop insights into the endogenous RNA language. These findings enabled development of an extensive in-house nucleotide sequence library that allows the assembly of the various pieces of the mRNA puzzle for the desired therapeutic use without having to rely on additional chemical modifications in the RNA.

Visit to watch the interview.


  1. CureVac. CureVac and MD Anderson Enter Strategic Collaboration to Develop Novel Cancer Vaccines. Press Release. April 16, 2024.
  2. Spivey, C. mRNA: Unparalleled Potential as a Drug. Nov. 7, 2023.

Source: CureVac