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RNA Therapies Company Gains $450M in Venture Funds

RNA illustration

RNA illustration (Research.gov)

5 January 2015. Moderna Therapeutics, a developer of medications that use genetic material to produce therapeutic proteins in the body, raised $450 million in its third announced venture financing round. The Cambridge, Massachusetts biotechnology company says existing investors AstraZeneca and Alexion Pharmaceuticals joined with new participants Viking Global Investors LP, Invus, RA Capital Management, and Wellington Management Company, as well as other undisclosed investors, in the funding.

Moderna’s technology is based on research at Harvard University and MIT on messenger RNA, a nucleic acid related to DNA delivering genetic code used by cells to produce the amino acids in proteins for carrying out bodily functions. The company designs what it calls modified messenger RNA to produce proteins that act like drugs as treatments for diseases, creating antibodies, and in regenerative medicine, with the potential to cut the time and expense for creating therapeutic proteins over current recombinant methods.

Moderna plans to apply the proceeds from this round to growth and expansion of its drug discovery and development capabilities, including the addition of 100 professional and scientific staff to the 145 already on its rolls.

Since its founding by Flagship Ventures in 2010, Moderna attracted venture financing of $40 million in December 2012 and another $110 million in November 2013. The company is partnering with global drug manufacturer AstraZeneca to develop therapies for cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and kidney disorders. Moderna is also collaborating with biotechology company Alexion Pharmaceuticals in developing treatments for rare diseases. In addition, Moderna received a $25 million contract from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to apply its messenger RNA platform for drugs to protect against unknown infectious diseases and engineered biological threats.

In January 2014, Moderna created a spin-off subsidiary Onkaido Therapeutics that applies messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to cancer treatments. Moderna staked Onkaido with $20 million in capital and 15 cancer drug candidates, including immunotherapies. The company in October 2014 invested as well in an early-stage drug discovery partnership with Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.

“With $800 million in cash after this financing” says Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel in a company statement, “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.”

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