- Moderna Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech developing new therapies based on messenger RNA technology, has secured $450 million in new equity funding, adding to its already impressive cash holdings of approximately $1 billion.
- According to a regulatory filing, the biotech plans to sell another $148.6 million in stock, which would push this newest financing round to a eye-watering $600 million.
- Moderna, which has remained a private company, recently announced the initiation of a Phase 1 trial for its second clinical program, an infectious disease vaccine candidate. While Moderna has revealed little detail on targets or indications, it has submitted a clinical trial application in Europe for another mRNA therapy and has another eight programs in the pipeline.
Moderna burst onto the scene last year when it landed an initial $450 million, one of the largest private financing rounds for the biotech industry. Partnerships with pharma companies have further bolstered Moderna's cash war chest, which it will need to fund development for all 11 programs it plans to put in the clinic.
Moderna's messenger RNA technology promises to help better deliver drugs and reach what are currently undruggable targets.
The technology has led AstraZeneca, Merck, Vertex and Alexion to partner with Moderna on development on mRNA-based therapies.
In June, Merck expanded its collaboration efforts with Moderna to develop a mRNA-based cancer vaccine in combination with Merck's PD-1 inhibitor Keytruda. Clinical trials are expected to begin sometime in 2017. Vertex signed on (also in June) to a three-year partnership focused on therapies for the treatment of cystic fibrosis.
Moderna did not disclose who participated in the newest funding round, although there were 72 investors involved, according to the filing.
One of those investors may be AstraZeneca, which recently said it had increased its equity stake in Moderna by another $140 million. That announcement was made on August 10, the same day Moderna apparently initiated the newest offering. With the latest equity infusion, AstraZeneca now holds a 9% stake in Moderna on a fully diluted basis.
Moderna has expanded rapidly as it stockpiles cash. Over the past six months, total employee headcount has increased by 38%, to 440 employees by the end of June. Moderna has also increased its footprint, adding 85,000 square feet of office, lab and manufacturing space over the same period.
In addition to the two programs already in the clinic and a third pending regulatory OK, Moderna said several other candidates are "on track" to begin clinical testing in 2016.