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John Mendlein steps in to help focus on the big picture at a fast-growing Moderna

John Mendlein

Two months ago John Mendlein passed the reins at aTyr, quietly stepping away from a company he had run for 6 years.

This morning, he’s back in a much more visible position.

Stéphane Bancel has named Mendlein as the new company president at biotech unicorn Moderna, with responsibility for corporate and product strategy. It’s an unusual move for a biotech like Moderna, which is still navigating the early stages of clinical development.

But then everything about Moderna — which has established a goal to create a major new player in biopharma while attracting plenty of love and hate along the way — is at least somewhat different than the norm.

Stéphane Bancel

For Bancel, a prominent new hire like this underscores the many moving parts associated with a fast-growing portfolio of pipeline projects, the introduction of combination approaches, major league partners, the creation of a full fledged manufacturing operation for products like a personalized cancer vaccine and a blockbuster investment effort designed to make Moderna a pioneer in messenger RNA.

Says Bancel: “This is very powerful stuff, thinking about all these products with $900 million in cash on the balance sheet. How do you weigh those products? That takes an amazing amount of work.”

It doesn’t hurt, he adds, that Mendlein — a board member at Moderna — trained as an attorney.

So Mendlein will be shouldering part of the strategy load now, as well as directing the BD and IP parts of the operation, joining an executive team that’s steering a company acting much like a biopharma with a broad range of marketed drugs and a major R&D operation.

Mendlein — who says the job talks came to fruition over the past month — didn’t shy away from praising Bancel and the Moderna team for their accomplishments.

He says: “I’ve been associated with companies with great platforms and science. The science here is absolutely terrific and the breadth of the applications is stunning.”

So does this mean that Moderna will soon be dusting off an S-1 and going public?

We’ll have to wait and see. That’s one topic Bancel wasn’t anxious to discuss.


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