New Zoster Vaccine Candidates Highlight Moderna mRNA Pipeline


This will increase Moderna’s vaccine catalog to 5, including vaccines against cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and HIV, in addition to the immunizations for HSV, and VZV.

The mRNA pipeline at Moderna will be expanded with 3 new development programs, which include mRNA vaccine candidates against herpes simplex virus (HSV), varicella-zoster virus (VSV) to reduce the rate of shingles, and a new checkpoint cancer vaccine, according to a company press release.

This will increase Moderna’s vaccine catalog to 5, including vaccines against cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and HIV, in addition to the immunizations for HSV, and VZV.

"We are pleased to announce these new development programs, which reflect the continued productivity of our platform and the potential of our mRNA technology to impact the lives of hundreds of millions of people," said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, in the press release. "We are committed to addressing latent viruses with the goal of preventing the lifelong medical conditions that they cause with our mRNA vaccine programs. With our HSV and VZV vaccine candidates, we also hope to improve the quality of life for those with symptomatic disease. With our new checkpoint cancer vaccine, we look forward to exploring if we can induce T cells specific to PD-L1 and IDO1 through vaccination. Our research teams are working on additional mRNA candidates, which we look forward to sharing in the future."

HSV vaccine candidate (mRNA-1608)

The HSV vaccine candidate, mRNA-1608, is designed to protect against HSV-2 disease and to provide cross-protection against HSV-1. Moderna aims to induce a strong antibody response with neutralizing and effector functionality combined with cell-mediated immunity, according to the press release.

Whereas HSV-1 infects the mouth, face, and genitals, HSV-2 primarily infects the genitals. Both viruses establish a lifelong latent infection within nearby sensory neurons from which they can reactivate and re-infect the skin. With this information, Moderna hopes that an HSV vaccine could deliver similar efficacy as suppressive antiviral treatment and improve quality of life.

VZV vaccine candidate (mRNA-1468)

The VZV vaccine candidate, mRNA-1468, is designed to express VZV glycoprotein E (gE) to reduce the rate of shingles. There has been published preclinical data from Moderna about the mRNA vaccine encoding the VZV gE antigen.

VZV causes shingles, and the severity of disease and likelihood of complications increase with age. Those who have an increased risk of developing herpes zoster include immunocomprised patients, autoimmune disease patients using immunosuppressive therapies, HIV-infected patients, hematopoietic stem cell, and organ transplant recipients.

Checkpoint cancer vaccine (mRNA-4359)

The new checkpoint cancer vaccine candidate, mRNA-4359, expresses indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase and programmed death-ligand 1 antigens. mRNA-4359 was created to stimulate effector T cells that kill suppressive immune and tumor cells that express target antigens. Moderna plans to explore initial indications for advanced or metastatic cutaneous melanoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC).

NSCLC commonly goes undetected and remains asymptomatic until it has progressed to later stages, and the current treatment approach of metastatic NSCLC is dependent on the presence of PD-L1 expression.


Moderna expands its mRNA pipeline with three new development programs. Moderna. February 18, 2022. Accessed March 1, 2022.

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