- Moderna said Wednesday it will pay $85 million to buy OriCiro Genomics, describing the company’s tools as “best in class” for the synthesis of plasmid DNA.
- OriCiro specializes in cell-free synthesis and amplification technologies, offering an alternative to the traditional cloning process for DNA, which employs the bacteria E. coli. The Japanese company says its technology offers a faster and more applicable way to produce DNA without the need for purification afterward.
- The acquisition will speed development of Moderna’s pipeline by offering better tools to synthesize and amplify plasmid DNA, “a key building block” for the manufacturing of messenger RNA, or mRNA, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a company statement.
Moderna’s mRNA technology vaulted into the spotlight in 2020, when the then 10-year-old company was able to swiftly develop an effective coronavirus vaccine within months of the onset of the pandemic. Pfizer and partner BioNTech also used mRNA technology in their successful vaccine.
The result was a windfall of billions of dollars for the vaccine companies. As of September, Moderna had $17 billion in cash and cash equivalents.
With a flush bank account, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has faced growing pressure to pursue mergers and acquisitions. Earlier this year, Bancel told investors his executives were looking at M&A possibilities “literally across the world.”
The company found its first target in OriCiro, which launched in December 2018. Its technology offers “a highly strategic fit with Moderna,” OriCiro CEO Nasir Kato Bashiruddin said in the companies’ statement.
While Moderna is now most known as a vaccine maker, the company’s original ambition was making medicines, and it has a number of therapies in early testing.
And though OriCiro marks its first acquisition, Moderna has engaged in licensing deals to advance its technology. In 2021, for example, the company announced it would work with California biotech startup Metagenomi to advance a group of medicines that edit genes inside the body. It also formed a research collaboration with Carisma Therapeutics to develop cancer cell therapies.