CureVac: From Hallway Chat to Major Collaboration

"Opportunities? They are all around us. There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it." –Orison Swett Marden, 19th-century American author

Seeing an opportunity is one thing, but seizing the opportunity is another. Andrew Hass, senior advisor, external innovation for Lilly Oncology, took a hallway conversation at a small oncology medical meeting and sparked a major partnership focused on cancer vaccine research that holds the potential to change the way we treat cancer. We at Lilly believe that cancer vaccines, as an approach to redirect the immune system to target cancer, are at the next exciting frontier in cancer medicine. This collaboration launches both companies forward.

In October 2017, Lilly Oncology and CureVac announced a global immuno-oncology collaboration focused on the development and commercialization of up to five cancer vaccines that target neoantigens across multiple tumor types. Neoantigens are encoded by tumor-specific mutated genes.

Studies have suggested a key role for neoantigens in cancer immunotherapy.

We are using our expertise in drug development and knowledge of how to bring a medicine to market, while CureVac brings its messenger RNA (mRNA) technology (RNActive®) that targets tumor neoantigens for a more robust anti-cancer immune response. Our plan is to use RNActive to deliver mRNA that directs the human immune system to target neoantigens across multiple tumor types. These neoantigens, which are tumor-specific, in turn direct the patient's existing immune system to mount a selective and potent response to eradicate the cancer.

The collaboration fosters a shared interest to develop the next generation of therapies that could potentially discover life-changing medicines for people living with cancer. Our partnership with CureVac is a primary example of leveraging external innovation to make disruptive decisions that can lead to meaningful breakthroughs for patients.