January 10, 2017

Mysterious $5 Billion Biotech Firm Moderna Lays Out Drug Pipeline

Moderna Therapeutics, based in Cambridge, Mass., has raised $1.9 billion at a valuation approaching $5 billion–higher than most publicly traded biotechnology companies. But the company is so secretive that until now the company didn’t even disclose what most of the drugs and vaccines it is developing are meant to do.

Today, at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Moderna is unveiling new details about its pipeline and strategy.

The company now has five vaccines in clinical trials. Two are for strains of influenza that could become pandemic, for which governments might want to stockpile vaccines. Another is for Zika virus, and a fourth, being developed with AstraZeneca, would treat heart attacks disease. The goal of a fifth, being developed with Merck, is not being revealed. Another vaccine, for Chikungunya virus, a mosquito-transmitted disease, is ready to start trials.

The flu vaccines are an interesting strategic gambit. Neither is likely to become a product, although governments may want to stockpile them, according to Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer and a 10% stockholder in the company. But they provide an early chance to prove that Moderna’s basic technology works.

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