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Merck And Orna In Deal To Develop Vaccines And Treatments For Infectious Diseases, Cancer

Merck (MRK), and Orna Therapeutics on Tuesday announced partnership to advance Orna's circular RNA technology.

As per the deal, Orna will receive an upfront payment of $150 million, and milestone payments of up to $3.5 billion on reaching certain targets associated with the progress of the multiple vaccine and therapeutic programs. An investment of $100 million of equity in Orna's recently completed Series B financing round by Merck is also expected.

Orna's proprietary oRNA technology creates circular RNAs (oRNAs) from linear RNAs by self-circularization. oRNA molecules have been shown to have greater stability in vivo than linear mRNA and have the potential to produce larger quantities of therapeutic proteins inside the body, Orna said.

"This broad strategic collaboration brings together Merck's significant expertise in nucleic acid biology, clinical development, and manufacturing with Orna's compelling circular RNA technology to explore the opportunity to develop a new generation of potential vaccines and therapeutics," said Fiona Marshall, senior vice president and head of discovery, preclinical and translational medicine at Merck Research Laboratories.

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