Moderna's herpes simplex virus (HSV) vaccine candidate (mRNA-1608) is a vaccine candidate against HSV-2 disease. Moderna expects that an HSV-2 vaccine could provide cross-protection against HSV-1. With mRNA-1608, the Company aims to induce strong antibody response with neutralizing and effector functionality combined with cell-mediated immunity. There is no vaccine approved against HSV.
Herpes simplex viruses (commonly known as herpes) are categorized into two types: HSV-1 infects the mouth, face and genitals, and HSV-2 primarily infects the genitals. Both viruses establish lifelong latent infections within nearby sensory neurons from which they can reactivate and re-infect the skin. There is a significant burden of disease from HSV genital infections. Diagnosed, symptomatic genital herpes causes a reduction in quality of life, which antivirals (current standard of care) only partially restore. In the U.S., approximately 18.6 million adults ages 18 to 49 years are living with HSV-2. Globally, approximately 5% of the population in the 18-to-49-year age range is HSV-2 seropositive. Moderna expects that an HSV vaccine could deliver similar efficacy as suppressive antiviral treatment and would likely improve compliance and quality of life.