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Merck supports Orna’s development of oRNA vaccine and therapeutics programmes

Merck will fund company with $150 million upfront
A collaboration effort has been agreed between Merck Research Laboratories (MSD) and Orna Therapeutics to discover, develop, and commercialise programmes of engineered circular (oRNA) therapies, in areas including infectious diseases and oncology. 
The deal includes Merck funding Orna with $150 million upfront, with a possible $3.5 billion in development, regulatory, and sales milestones, as well as royalties on approved products. Merck will also invest $100 million of equity in Orna’s recentlycompleted Series B financing round.
Orna will retain its rights to its oRNA-LNP (lipid nanoparticle) technology platform. oRNA molecules have been shown to have greater stability in vivo than linear mRNA, and can produce larger qualities of therapeutic proteins.
“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,” stated Fiona Marshall, Senior VP and Head of Discovery, Preclinical, and Translational Medicine at Merck.
Tom Barnes, CEO of Orna, added, “We are thrilled to collaborate with Merck, a company committed to breakthrough science, which has recognised the potential our platform can bring to patients. Our oRNA technology plus novel delivery solutions are designed to unlock the full potential of RNA in therapeutics and vaccines.”