Massachusetts Biotech Moderna Therapeutics, Inc. Raises Record $450 Million; Will Hire 100 New Staffers

Massachusett Biotech Moderna Therapeutics, Inc. Raises Record $450 Million; Will Hire 100 New Staffers
January 6, 2015
By Riley McDermid, Breaking News Sr. Editor

Cambridge, Mass-based gene therapy startup Moderna Therapeutics had a booming first week of 2015, announcing Monday it has raised $450 million in a new round of funding, money it will use to hire 100 new staffers, drug development experts and scientists in the coming months.

Moderna said that the funding from new investors Viking Global Investors, Invus, RA Capital Management, and Wellington Management Company, as well as existing investors AstraZeneca PLC and Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. , will be used to advance its modified mRNA to create cellular “machinery” to make therapeutic proteins in vivo. Moderna has long been a poster child for Big Biotech firm AstraZeneca, with the British company so far sinking millions into its promising new field of gene therapy.

The company said it will add the 100 new jobs to its existing roster of 145 employees and will do the hiring in the next few months.

To date Moderna has raised $950 million in five rounds of funding from that same suite of investors, an unusually high milestone in a sector where most companies of this type and size would have already exited or deciding to file an initial public offering. Perhaps because it was founded by a venture capital shop, Flagship VentureLabs, in 2011, Moderna has so far kept mum about a possible sale or IPO, though that could change if it sees success with its current clinical trial candidates.

For now, the company said it is focusing on partnerships, a stratagem that has brought them a lot of success in recent years, with existing deals already in place with Karolinska Institute (KI) and Karolinska University Hospital (KUH), announced in October 2014. That collaboration is part of a larger initiative between AstraZeneca, Alexion and DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), where Moderna is in active development of 45 preclinical programs in oncology, cardiovascular disease, rare diseases and infectious diseases.

"The strong support from our investors is a testament to the incredible work done by our team over the past three years in unlocking the potential of mRNA Therapeutics to drive transformational advances for patients," said Stephane Bancel, president and CEO of Moderna, in a statement. "With $800 million in cash after this financing, we are moving rapidly to support the exponential growth of our mRNA Therapeutics platform with new investments, partnerships and ventures, and are committed to recruiting the best industry talent to support this growth at all levels, including bench scientists, seasoned drug hunters and leaders for our new ventures."

Moderna has also launched Onkaido, its own exclusively focused oncology venture, and will likely use some of today’s funding to plough back into its early-stage drug discovery and development programs in place with its partners.

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