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Eli Lilly to collaborate with Germany's CureVac on cancer vaccines

Oct 18 (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday it will collaborate with CureVac AG on development of up to five immunotherapy cancer vaccines using the German company's messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Under terms of the deal, CureVac will receive $50 million up front and Lilly will take an equity stake in CureVac worth about $53 million (45 million euros).

Once the deal clears regulatory scrutiny, Lilly said it will take a charge to earnings of about 3 cents per share.

The collaboration calls for Lilly to be responsible for identifying cancer targets, clinical development and commercialization, while CureVac will handle mRNA design, formulation and manufacture of vaccine for clinical supply, the companies said.

CureVac retains an option to co-promote any approved vaccine products in Germany. It will also be eligible to receive more than $1.7 billion in development and commercialization milestones should all five vaccines prove successful, and royalty payments on sales if any are approved.

Therapeutic cancer vaccines have had a very disappointing track record with numerous clinical failures. But treatments that help a patient's own immune system fight cancer are all the rage, with a handful on the market targeting several cancer types and scores more in development.

Messenger RNA carries the recipe to produce desired therapeutic proteins inside a patient's body. The CureVac mRNA technology will employ specific tumor neonantigens designed to help mount a selective immune system assault against cancer cells.

"We now have the opportunity to combine forces to further expand the exciting space of immuno-oncology with the next generation of cancer therapies," CureVac Chief Executive Ingmar Hoerr said in a statement. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Tom Brown)