ModeX secures $168M from BARDA to develop antiviral drugs for pandemic threats

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In yet another remarkable development in the world of biotech, ModeX Therapeutics, in partnership with Merck, has secured a substantial $168 million contract from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The mission? To pioneer groundbreaking antibody therapies targeted at viral infections, most notably the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The funding, unveiled on Thursday, comprises an upfront payment of $59 million, with an additional $109 million contingent on achieving crucial developmental milestones, particularly for diseases beyond COVID.

The initial substantial funding infusion is earmarked for advancing a phase 1 clinical trial, a critical step in assessing the efficacy and safety of a groundbreaking “multispecific antibody.” This innovative antibody holds the potential to neutralize a spectrum of COVID-19 variants, serving as both a treatment option and a preventive measure.

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What sets ModeX apart is its cutting-edge MSTAR platform, celebrated for its capability to incorporate between four to six independent antibody binding sites within a single molecule. This distinctive feature addresses a persistent challenge faced by many therapeutic antibodies authorized by the FDA during the pandemic—mutations in the virus’ binding sites that compromise their effectiveness. The subsequent milestone payments will be directed toward the development of solutions for other viral infections, including influenza.

ModeX has ambitious plans to harness gene-based delivery methods utilizing mRNA or DNA to leverage the body’s innate protein production processes. This groundbreaking approach has the potential to revolutionize the landscape of infectious disease treatment.

This substantial nine-figure government contract follows ModeX’s strategic collaboration with Merck earlier this year, where the two pharmaceutical giants joined forces to develop a vaccine for the Epstein Barr virus. Merck, headquartered in New Jersey, invested an initial $50 million upfront and offered more than $850 million in biobucks to secure exclusive rights to ModeX’s preclinical candidate, MDX-2201. Notably, Moderna and the National Institutes of Health are pursuing similar assets in their respective development pipelines.

Also Read: BARDA Grants $433M To Gritstone For MRNA COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

This funding infusion is a direct outcome of BARDA’s Project NextGen initiative, which is dedicated to advancing a new class of vaccines and therapeutics to combat COVID-19, alongside the cutting-edge technologies that support them. Just this week, vaccine developer Gritstone Bio received a remarkable $433 million grant to support a phase 2b clinical trial for a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine.

For OPKO Health, the parent company that acquired ModeX in May 2022, this BARDA contract represents a resounding validation of their investment. Impressively, the overall worth of the BARDA contract surpasses half of the $300 million that OPKO Health committed to acquire ModeX, underscoring the tremendous potential that lies ahead in the battle against infectious diseases.

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