8. Moderna Therapeutics

Reprogramming cells to fight disease

Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics
Source: Moderna Therapeutics
Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics

Founders: Noubar Afeyan, Robert Langer, Kenneth Chien, and Derrick Rossi
CEO: Stéphane Bancel
Date launched: 2010
$224.6 million
Industries disrupted: Biotech and Pharmaceuticals
Disrupting: Foundation Medicine, Pfizer, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals
Competition: Arvinas, Editas Medicine, Seres Health

Moderna Therapeutics is doing something that could change the biotech world—and how patients are treated—in a major way. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, started by venture capital firm Flagship Ventures, is using messenger RNA or mRNA, which are the molecules responsible for ferrying DNA code from a cell's nucleus to the ribosomes that create all-important proteins.

mRNA Therapeutics—as the company calls its drug application—gives patients' cells the instructions, or code, they need to create their own proteins and antibodies to fight disease, such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. And from a business standpoint, it's even more attractive, since the company claims the technology involved is relatively inexpensive to produce.


Of course, as promising as the company's developments are, hurdles abound as it faces the potential of unsuccessful clinical trials and regulatory red tape down the road. Still, that hasn't stopped AstraZeneca from investing more than $200 million for the exclusive use of Moderna's mRNA technology to treat cardiovascular disease as well as cancer. And late last year the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded the company $25 million to develop mRNA to fight infectious diseases and biological threats.

On the company's disruptive impact:

"Moderna … has the potential to treat diseases that are untreatable today and to speed the development and manufacture of treatments. This is a quantum change." -Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO


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