$1.9B in: Mod­er­na blue­prints $100M fa­cil­i­ty, plans to dou­ble the pipeline af­ter a $474M megaround

Stephane Ban­cel, Mod­er­na CEO

Mod­er­na has wrapped its lat­est megaround with $474 mil­lion to in­vest in a new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty and its fast-grow­ing staff as it looks to launch new stud­ies for im­muno-on­col­o­gy and dou­ble the num­ber of ther­a­pies in the pipeline as ear­ly as next sum­mer.

Mod­er­na tipped its hand on this fundrais­ing in a Form D a few days ago. But in an in­ter­view with End­points News, Mod­er­na CEO Stephane Ban­cel spelled out where the next big in­vest­ments will be made. At the top of that to-do list is build­ing a $100 mil­lion man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty, which the Cam­bridge, MA-based biotech has been scout­ing a lo­ca­tion for.

“We are re­al­ly try­ing to in­vest in the plat­form,” says Ban­cel, “to be­come the best mR­NA com­pa­ny in the world…. We are play­ing a very long game.”

Mod­er­na dis­card­ed the clas­sic biotech mold the day it start­ed in busi­ness. Rather than stake their claim to new tech­nol­o­gy by prov­ing its worth in one or two drugs, the biotech im­me­di­ate­ly set out to raise the big bucks nec­es­sary to start work on a ma­jor pipeline that could even­tu­al­ly prove its worth for a whole range of dis­eases. Pro­grams rang­ing from vac­cines to rare dis­eases, on­col­o­gy, car­dio and more are in­clud­ed. This way, says Ban­cel, a sin­gle set­back shouldn’t cloud the com­pa­ny’s fu­ture.

Clin­i­cal pro­grams were a long time com­ing as Mod­er­na built up a range of big pre­clin­i­cal part­ner­ships. But Ban­cel says the num­ber of drugs in de­vel­op­ment has swelled to 11, with the first set of da­ta slat­ed to be re­leased in 2017. Mod­er­na al­so plans to add about 10 drugs to the clin­ic by next sum­mer, says the CEO, as the 450 staffers al­ready on board are joined by 100 more be­ing re­cruit­ed now for open po­si­tions. And the new man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­i­ty need­ed to sup­port its de­vel­op­ment work will be ready by the end of 2017.

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.

To get here, Mod­er­na has now raised $1.9 bil­lion from in­vestors like As­traZeneca, with an­oth­er $230 mil­lion on the ta­ble from grants. In ad­di­tion to the fi­nanc­ing an­nounce­ment this morn­ing, Mod­er­na is al­so un­veil­ing a pact to de­vel­op a new Zi­ka vac­cine, with BAR­DA putting up $8 mil­lion to get the pro­gram start­ed while of­fer­ing an op­tion on $117 mil­lion more to get through a suc­cess­ful de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

Al­to­geth­er, this new mon­ey comes close to the record $500 mil­lion that the com­pa­ny raised last year. Even­tu­al­ly, Ban­cel says the com­pa­ny should be ready for an IPO.

“We will take the com­pa­ny pub­lic,” he tells me. “There is no doubt about it.”

First, though, Mod­er­na will have to gath­er pos­i­tive mid-stage da­ta from sev­er­al lead­ing pro­grams, leav­ing no doubt that it can achieve its dreams.

BiTE® Plat­form and the Evo­lu­tion To­ward Off-The-Shelf Im­muno-On­col­o­gy Ap­proach­es

Despite rapid advances in the field of immuno-oncology that have transformed the cancer treatment landscape, many cancer patients are still left behind.1,2 Not every person has access to innovative therapies designed specifically to treat his or her disease. Many currently available immuno-oncology-based approaches and chemotherapies have brought long-term benefits to some patients — but many patients still need other therapeutic options.3

Pfiz­er’s Doug Gior­dano has $500M — and some ad­vice — to of­fer a cer­tain breed of 'break­through' biotech

So let’s say you’re running a cutting-edge, clinical-stage biotech, probably public, but not necessarily so, which could see some big advantages teaming up with some marquee researchers, picking up say $50 million to $75 million dollars in a non-threatening minority equity investment that could take you to the next level.

Doug Giordano might have some thoughts on how that could work out.

The SVP of business development at the pharma giant has helped forge a new fund called the Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative. And he has $500 million of Pfizer’s money to put behind 7 to 10 — or so — biotech stocks that fit that general description.

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Gilead re­leas­es an­oth­er round of murky remde­sivir re­sults

A month after the NIH declared the first trial on remdesivir in Covid-19 a success, Gilead is out with new results on their antiviral. But although the study met one of its primary endpoints, the data are likely to only add to a growing debate over how effective the drug actually is.

In a Phase III trial, patients given a 5-day dose of remdesivir were 65% more likely to show “clinical improvement” compared to an arm given standard-of-care. The trial, though, gave little indication for whether the drug had an impact on key endpoints such as survival or time-to-recovery. And in a surprising twist, a 10-day dosing arm of remdesivir didn’t lead to a statistically significant improvement over standard of care.

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Ken Frazier, AP Images

Why Mer­ck wait­ed, and what they now bring to the Covid-19 fight

Nicholas Kartsonis had been running clinical infectious disease research at Merck for almost 2 years when, in mid-January, he got a new assignment: searching the pharma giant’s vast libraries for something that could treat the novel coronavirus.

The outbreak was barely two weeks old when Kartsonis and a few dozen others got to work, first in small teams and then in a larger task force that sucked in more and more parts of the sprawling company as Covid-19 infected more and more of the globe. By late February, the group began formally searching for vaccine and antiviral candidates to license. Still, while other companies jumped out to announce their programs and, eventually and sometimes controversially, early glimpses at human data, Merck remained silent. They made only a brief announcement about a data collection partnership in April and mentioned vaguely a vaccine and antiviral search in their April 28 earnings call.

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Mark Genovese (Stanford via Twitter)

Gilead woos fil­go­tinib clin­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tor from Stan­ford to lead the charge on NASH, in­flam­ma­to­ry dis­eases

With an FDA OK for the use of filgotinib in rheumatoid arthritis expected to drop any day now, Gilead has recruited a new leader from academia to lead its foray into inflammatory diseases.

Mark Genovese — a longtime Stanford professor and most recently the clinical chief in the division of immunology and rheumatology — was the principal investigator in FINCH 2, one of three studies that supported Gilead’s NDA filing. In his new role as SVP, inflammation, he will oversee the clinical development of the entire portfolio.

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Bris­tol My­ers Squib­b's just-launched MS drug Zeposia makes the cut in key ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis tri­al

In March, Zeposia became the third oral S1P modulator to secure US approval for multiple sclerosis. Now, the drug has succeeded in a key ulcerative colitis study.

The immunomodulator, akin to others in its class, controls lymphocyte trafficking by limiting the white blood cells to the lymphatic system, in the lymph nodes, and thwarting their ability to jam up lymph nodes — precluding their ability to penetrate the bloodstream and the central nervous system.

Stephen Isaacs, Aduro president and CEO (Aduro)

Once a high fly­er, a stag­ger­ing Aduro is auc­tion­ing off most of the pipeline as CEO Stephen Isaacs hands off the shell to new own­ers

After a drumbeat of failure, setbacks and reorganizations over the last few years, Aduro CEO Stephen Isaacs is handing over his largely gutted-out shell of a public company to another biotech company and putting up some questionable assets in a going-out-of-business sale.

Isaacs —who forged a string of high-profile Big Pharma deals along the way — has wrapped a 13-year run at the biotech with one program for kidney disease going to the new owners at Chinook Therapeutics. A host of once-heralded assets like their STING agonist program partnered with Novartis (which dumped their work on ADU-S100 after looking over weak clinical results), the Lilly-allied cGAS-STING inhibitor program and the anti-CD27 program out-licensed to Merck will all be posted for auction under a strategic review process.

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Hill­house re­casts spot­light on Chi­na's biotech scene with $160M round for Shang­hai-based an­ti­body mak­er

Almost two years after first buying into Genor Biopharma’s pipeline of cancer and autoimmune therapies, Hillhouse Capital has led a $160 million cash injection to push the late-stage assets over the finish line while continuing to fund both internal R&D and dealmaking.

The Series B has landed right around the time Genor would have listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange, according to plans reported by Bloomberg late last year. Insiders had said that the company was looking to raise about $200 million.

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Novus Ther­a­peu­tics plunges deep in­to pen­ny stock ter­ri­to­ry af­ter failed ear tri­al

After a more than 15-year run, a California-based biotech is exploring options, including a sale, after its lead experimental therapy failed an exploratory mid-stage study in patients with middle ear infections characterized by a build-up of fluid behind the eardrum.

The company, initially called Tokai Pharmaceuticals but which subsequently changed its name to Novus Therapeutics in 2017, saw its shares more than halve on Monday after the drug — OP0201— did not pass muster as an adjunct therapy to oral antibiotics in infants and children aged 6 to 24 months with acute otitis media (OM).