- AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it had increased its equity stake in Moderna Therapeutics, investing another $140 million into its R&D partnership with the messenger RNA company.
- Collaboration between the two companies dates back to an original deal in March 2013. AstraZeneca recently expanded the partnership to jointly develop two immuno-oncology programs based on Moderna's mRNA platform.
- With the latest equity infusion, AstraZeneca now holds a 9% stake in Moderna on a fully diluted basis.
When AstraZeneca and Moderna first teamed up 2013, they planned to develop therapies across a range of cardiovascular, metabolic and renal diseases, along with cancer.
AstraZeneca put down $240 million upfront, with another $180 million in milestone payments lined up on the promise of Moderna's technology. Moderna's mRNA platform is designed to deliver therapeutic proteins or antibodies directly into patients' cells, with the goal of creating a therapeutic intracellular effect.
Earlier this year, the team announced that they had discovered their first clinical-trial ready mRNA-based candidate, AZD8601.
The two companies are also focusing on developing two immuno-oncology candidates. Moderna will complete discovery and preclinical development, before handing the candidates off to AstraZeneca for early clinical development. Late-stage development costs will be split and any profits shared equally, according to the terms of the collaboration.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot has committed to bringing six new cancer drugs to the market by 2020, a key part of his ambitious goal of raising annual revenues to $45 billion by 2023.
Much of the company's hopes in oncology rest on successful development of the company's checkpoint inhibitor durvalumab, which is in ten Phase 3 clinical programs either as a monotherapy or in various combinations.
AstraZeneca is also hoping it can steal a march on other companies through development of DNA damage-response drugs, such as a therapy combining the ovarian cancer drug Lynparza with a WEE1 inhibitor.
But both Lynparza and the investigational lung cancer drug selumetinib have recently failed Phase 3 trials, setting back the company in those areas.