Moderna is an American biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It focuses on drug discovery, drug development, and vaccine technologies based exclusively on messenger RNA.
Moderna's technology platform inserts synthetic mRNA into living cells. The synthetic mRNA then reprograms the cells to develop their own immune responses; in conventional medicines, by contrast, immune responses are created externally and injected into cells. It is a novel technique, previously abandoned due to the side effects of inserting RNA into cells. As of November 2020, no mRNA drug has ever been approved for human use.
Moderna has conducted mostly unsuccessful trials in traditional high-margin chronic therapeutic areas with AstraZeneca and in orphan diseases with Alexion Pharmaceuticals. In 2014, Moderna moved to focus on lower-margin vaccines, given that an mRNA vaccine – efficacy issues aside – will always stimulate a level of antibody development in subjects. The strategic change led industry experts, and Moderna employees, to question the financial viability of the company.
In December 2018, Moderna conducted the largest biotech initial public offering in history. It raised US$600 million for 8% of its shares, implying a valuation of $7.5 billion; from inception to IPO, Moderna had reported cumulative losses $1.5 billion and had raised $3.2 billion in equity. As of November 2020, Moderna was valued at $35 billion. While none of its drugs had been approved as of that date, its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, was close to getting emergency use authorization.