Drug Development

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

Stephane Bancel, Moderna CEO

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.

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