Drug Development

UPDATED: AstraZeneca doubles down on Moderna, invests $140M in $1.5B-plus biotech

Moderna Therapeutics has had one of the most successful records in biotech for raising money to back discovery-stage R&D work. And now it’s banking $140 million more from AstraZeneca as the biotech steps its way through early clinical stage work.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

The investment brings AstraZeneca’s $AZN stake in Moderna to 9% and comes just days after the partners filed a European application to start a Phase I study of AZD8601, an investigational mRNA-based therapy that encodes for vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A). AstraZeneca originally signed on as a partner back in 2013, when new CEO Pascal Soriot used it to demonstrate the pharma giant’s zeal for big, risky and potentially revolutionary science projects.

They don’t get much more revolutionary than Moderna, a private company which believes its mRNA platform tech can deliver the necessary package to spur cells to produce therapeutics, essentially turning bodies into drug factories. The deal with AstraZeneca covers new drugs for cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases as well as cancer.

Altogether, Moderna has now raised a total of $1.5 billion dollars in venture cash and partnership dollars to fund its research operations, CEO Stephane Bancel tells me. That includes a record $500 million round (including a second close) in early 2015. And Soriot helped get that all started with a whopping $240 million upfront in its 2013 deal, which was tied to $180 million in milestones.

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