Big dreams, big pay and a big IPO: Moderna lights up a pitch for a record $500M biotech IPO

Moderna’s executive team never does anything small — or non-controversial.

They’ve built a biotech unicorn with a $7.5 billion valuation without anything close to pivotal data to back up their ambitions in messenger RNA. A legion of critics, led by Stat News, has poked at their business model and aspirations. And the jury is still out on whether or not the mRNA companies that have attracted attention in the field can do what they say they can do — at least in a reasonable time frame for commercialization.

But CEO Stephane Bancel isn’t letting any of that get in the way of his plans to go public.

On Friday Moderna filed plans for a record $500 million IPO, which would offer one of the best funded biotechs in Boston an even deeper pool of cash to draw on — if they’re successful. If they come even close, they’ll eclipse the record $372.6 million biotech IPO Arie Belldegrun and David Chang completed a few weeks ago for Allogene.

Right now, the big money is flowing fast in the industry. And Moderna isn’t waiting to see if the window will close anytime soon.

The big idea at Moderna is that they can use mRNA to dispatch the coding necessary to turn cells into drug-making factories — a killer application of tech that could revolutionize the way a broad range of diseases are treated. But the market won’t give them an unlimited amount of time to prove they can do this.

Moderna has been laying the foundation for this IPO since Flagship launched the company 6 years ago. And they are going out behind a professional lineup of heavyweight underwriters — Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, BofA Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Piper Jaffray, Bryan Garnier, Oddo, Oppenheimer, Needham and Chardan.

“We see mRNA functioning as the ‘software of life.’ Every cell uses mRNA to provide real time instructions to make the proteins necessary to drive all aspects of biology, including in human health and disease,” reads the S-1. “This was codified as the central dogma of molecular biology over 50 years ago, and is exemplified in the schematic below.”


It’s anything but cheap. Moderna has burned through $865 million through the end of September. A chunk of that has gone to building out manufacturing as they build out the pipeline. And they don’t shortchange their execs on pay. 

Bancel earned a $6.8 million pay package for last year,  which is significantly less than the $24 million packet handed to President Stephen Hoge. Lorence Kim, the CFO, bagged $9.3 million. For a startup biotech, those are extraordinarily high amounts.

Moderna didn’t quite fill in all the blanks for their S-1. The roster of equity stakes held by the top shareholders that must be attached to each filing is left blank, presumably to be filled in at a later point. 

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Sr. Manager, Regulatory Affairs, CMC
CytomX Therapeutics San Francisco, CA
Marketing Associate - Demand Generation
Catalytic Data Science Charleston, SC
Associate Principal, Life Sciences Partnerships
Flatiron Health New York City or San Francisco

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