Moderna Therapeutics has already raised the largest biotech financing round in history, yet the Cambridge, MA, company looks to be on its way to breaking that record just a year later.
According to a regulatory filing, Moderna—the messenger RNA drugmaker that has already vacuumed up more than $1 billion in financing and partnership dollars—is raising as much as $600 million in a new round of funding. The filing shows Moderna has already secured $451.4 million from 72 investors, with another $148.6 million left to be sold in the stock offering. The Boston Globe first reported on the filing yesterday.
By pulling in $451.4 million, Moderna has already gone past its previous round, a then-record $450 million financing in January 2015 that included industry partners like AstraZeneca and Alexion Pharmaceuticals and “crossover” investors—those who typically invest in public companies—like RA Capital Management and Wellington Management. It’s unclear who exactly is involved in the latest round, but AstraZeneca, a longtime Moderna partner, just earlier this month invested $140 million in Moderna and boosted its stake to about 9 percent. Moderna had listed a goal of as much as $502 million when it raised its previous $450 million round. 43 investors participated, according to another regulatory filing.
Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel declined to comment on the filing Monday morning. But back when Moderna raised its previous $450 million round last year, executives said that the financing wasn’t a precursor to an IPO, as is often the case in life sciences. For a variety of reasons—secrecy being one of them, as staying private enables Moderna to keep many of the details behind its technology close to the vest—Moderna told its investors that an IPO wasn’t just around the corner. As CFO Lorence Kim told Xconomy in January 2015: “We were clear with our investors from the get-go that we are playing the long game.”
Since that time, Moderna has continued to grow and haul in cash from a preponderance of sources. The company had about $1 billion in cash on hand and some 440 employees at the end of July. Though the company still has yet to disclose or publish any human clinical data in a peer-reviewed journal, Moderna has formed wide ranging drug development partnerships with Merck, AstraZeneca, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and has turned itself into something of a startup incubator. Through a growing web of startup subsidiaries and partnerships, Moderna has been developing mRNA therapies for a range of diseases—cancer, rare diseases, cardiovascular disorders, and more. Moderna does the early stage work, while its startup subsidiaries, Onkaido, Elpidera, Valera, and Caperna, do more advanced development.
The idea behind Moderna is to inject synthetic mRNA strands into the body so patients’ cells can produce their own therapeutic proteins, a novel yet unproven way of making drugs. Moderna said last month that it recently began testing its second mRNA drug in a human clinical trial (the first went into clinical testing last year) and has administered mRNA drugs to around 200 healthy volunteers so far. A third mRNA drug—a cardiovascular drug called AZD8601 that Moderna is working on with AstraZeneca—should begin human testing soon. As many as eight more mRNA drug prospects could begin trials this year.