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RNA Biotech Raises $604M in IPO

NASDAQ share price display

(Julien Gong Min, Flickr)

8 Dec. 2018. Moderna Therapeutics, a biotechnology enterprise developing therapies with synthetic RNA, issued its initial public stock offering, or IPO, on Thursday, raising more than $604 million. The next day, however, the company’s stock, trading as MRNA on the Nasdaq exchange, took a major hit falling more than 19 percent from its IPO share price.

On Thursday, Moderna released its long-awaited IPO, issuing nearly 26.3 million shares at $23.00 a share, and raising more than $604 million, in what financial observers called the largest biotechnology IPO ever. Moderna develops therapeutic proteins with a technology that synthesizes messenger RNA, a nucleic acid based on the genetic code from DNA, and used by cells to produce the amino acids in proteins for cellular functions. 

Moderna manipulates the coding region in the messenger RNA chemistry to provide instructions for cells to produce proteins with specific therapeutic properties. Those coding instructions are contained in a standard package that appears in most cases like natural RNA to avoid triggering an immune response, and reach the desired cells where the therapeutic protein is needed.

Moderna’s pipeline focuses largely on infectious diseases and cancer immunotherapies. For infectious diseases, Moderna has vaccine candidates in early-stage clinical trials to prevent a influenza, Zika, Chikungunya, and respiratory syncytial viruses. As reported by Science & Enterprise in February 2018, Moderna is also testing a vaccine to prevent cytomegalovirus, a common virus related to herpes.

The company’s cancer immunotherapies address mainly solid tumor cancers, but also lymphoma. Science & Enterprise reported in November 2017 on a clinical trial of Moderna’s personal vaccine using messenger RNA, in combination with the immunotherapy drug Keytruda, made by Merck. In June 2016, drug maker Merck and Moderna began their collaboration to develop personal RNA vaccines for cancer.

On 7 December, the day after issuing the IPO, investors turned sour on Moderna Therapeutics as well as the broader stock markets. By the Nasdaq’s closing bell yesterday, Moderna shares dropped from $23.00 to $18.60, a 19.1 percent decline. Moderna, however, was in good company. The Nasdaq overall dropped more than 3 percent that day, with the Dow-Jones and Standard and Poor’s stock indexes declining almost as much.

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