Philadelphia cell therapy developer Carisma Therapeutics has entered into a research collaboration with Moderna that includes Carisma receiving an upfront payment of $45 million.

Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) will also invest $35 million in Carisma in the form of a convertible note, and in return get options for up to 12 targets for potential cancer therapies.

Under the partnership, the two companies will work together to discover, develop and commercialize potential cancer treatments. The treatments will incorporate Carisma’s in vivo engineered chimeric antigen receptor monocyte (CAR-M) technology.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Moderna specializes in messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutics including the Covid-19 vaccine it developed last year.

Carisma is pioneering cell therapies involving macrophages, which are a type of cell found in stationary form in tissue, or as a mobile white blood cell, at sites of infection. The company’s researchers have developed a way to genetically engineer macrophage cells with chimeric antigen receptors, or CARs, to direct a therapy to tumor cells. Its in vivo approach means cells do not need to be manipulated outside the body then re-infused in patients.

Steven Kelly, CEO of Carisma, said Moderna’s deep expertise in mRNA and lipid nanoparticle technologies — which involve delivering genetic drugs without using deactivated viruses — “opens up a potentially game-changing opportunity for engineered macrophages.”

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