Venture Capital

Moderna boosts unicorn status with a whopping $500M raise and $7B valuation

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO

The biotech world’s biggest unicorn just raised $500 million, bringing its total haul to about $2.5 billion from partnerships and investors while valuing the company at close to $7 billion.

This year Moderna will burn through about $450 million, the executive team tells me today. And with this new financing, the company has three years of runway — plenty of time to figure out the right timing for an eventual IPO.

“We always like to have several years of capital,” says CEO Stéphane Bancel. “And we want to keep on expanding the investor base.”

They accomplished that goal in style.

Moderna raised the cash from a broad, global syndicate that stretched from the Middle East to Europe and on to China. The group included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, BB Biotech AG, Julius Baer, Singapore-based EDBI and Sequoia Capital China. Existing investors that also participated in this round include Fidelity Management and Research, Pictet, Viking Global Investors, ArrowMark Partners and Alexandria Venture Investments.

With the raise, the company has $1.4 billion in cash in the bank, and another $250 million coming from established grants. That treasure trove will be used to back a staff that has grown into the hundreds, with dedicated manufacturing support and a host of big partners working with them on development programs.

That leaves everyone asking the same big question: When will Moderna go public?

“We’re not prepared to go there,” responded CFO Lorence Kim when I asked. “With this capital we will now look at the advancement of our programs through and in the clinic” as they ponder the right next step on financing.

But it’s certainly on the radar. Adds Kim: “We are beginning the process of preparing and evaluating the costs and infrastructure of being public.”

For a private biotech with deep-pocket investors backing it, Moderna has stirred some powerful feelings — both pro and con — in the Cambridge/Boston biotech hub where it’s based.

Noubar Afeyan

Supporters look at a broadening pipeline that currently has 19 programs in clinical development for a potentially breakthrough approach using messenger RNA, as of the most recent update at JPMorgan. And Noubar Afeyan, the chief at Flagship, has made it a prime example of the kind of major league player he wants to bring up from the AAA.

For them, Moderna is part of the new breed of biotechs.

Critics have hit the company for a huge valuation that’s extraordinary for a biotech that has no marketed products and a pipeline that still has some major strides to go before getting into late-stage development. For that crowd, the big money and payroll at Moderna are a sign of pure froth in an overheated market.

For them, Moderna is an aberration that threatens to crumble.

Love them or hate them, though, Moderna is playing for all the marbles, and this latest $500 million raise and multibillion-dollar valuation speaks to their success in getting some well heeled backers to go very deep, and very long, in giving them the funds to go all the way.

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Research Scientist - Immunology
Recursion Pharmaceuticals Salt Lake City, UT
Director of Operations
Atlas Venture Cambridge, MA

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