A collaboration between Chinese company CARsgen and Texas-based Moderna was announced by the former in August 2023. The agreement was initiated to investigate a combination approach involving CARsgen’s investigational Claudin18.2 CAR T-cell product candidate (CT041) and Moderna’s investigational Claudin18.2 mRNA cancer vaccine. Claudin18.2 is an isoform of Claudin18, a member of the tight junction protein family. It is a “highly selective biomarker” with “limited expression” in normal tissues and “often abnormal expression during the occurrence and development of various primary malignant tumours”. It is associated with gastric cancer/gastroesophageal junction cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancer, bronchial cancer, and non-small-cell lung cancer.  

CT041 and an mRNA vaccine 

CT041 (satricabtagene autoleucel) is an autologous CAR T-cell product that is being investigated for the potential treatment of gastric, pancreatic, and other specified digestive system cancers. It is currently in “multiple” ongoing clinical studies in China and North America. Moderna’s investigational off-the-shelf mRNA cancer vaccine encodes for the Claudin18.2 protein. The agreement “contemplates” conducting preclinical studies and a phase I clinical trial to evaluate a combination approach.  

Combination collaboration 

Dr Zonghai Li, Founder, Chairman, CEO, Chief Scientific Officer of CARsgen described CT)41 as “the most advanced solid tumour CAR-T in development”. It “continues to show promise in treating gastric and pancreatic cancers”, he states. 

“In our quest to make cancer curable, we are continuously exploring multiple modalities to eradicate tumours. Attacking tumours with CAR T-cell therapy in combination with a cancer vaccine could potentially provide greater clinical benefit to patients.” 

Furthermore, Moderna has “clearly established themselves” as a “scientific and commercial leader” in the mRNA field, so Dr Li and his team are “pleased to partner” with Moderna to “explore a potential synergism”. Dr Lin Guey, Scientific Officer of External Research Ventures at Moderna echoes this optimism.  

“Claudin18.2 is a promising therapeutic target to potentially treat multiple cancer types with high unmet medical need. We continue to deliver on the promise of mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines in oncology.” 

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