1. Moderna Therapeutics

Helping the body heal itself

Founders: Noubar Afeyan, Robert Langer, Kenneth Chien, Derrick Rossi
Date launched: 2011
Funding: $1 billion
Industries disrupted: Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology

Imagine helping the human body make the medicine it needs to cure a disease. That's what Moderna Therapeutics is setting out to do. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, founded by a team steeped in the fields of medicine and biology, uses messenger RNA—or mRNA—to give the body's cells the instructions, or code, they need to create the proteins and antibodies to fight all kinds of diseases, from diabetes and heart disease to certain cancers.

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One of the chief advantages that Moderna has over other early-stage biotech companies is that its mRNA can focus on fighting multiple diseases at once rather than the typical and time-consuming path of defining and creating a drug therapy for each individual disease.

The company already has 45 preclinical programs under way in cardiovascular disease, oncology and other areas and expects to be in clinical trials testing drugs and vaccines for a variety of therapeutic areas within the next two years.

Investors—and partners—find this incredibly attractive. The company recently raised an additional $500 million in equity financing and signed pharma giant Merck as a strategic partner to help develop treatment for viral diseases. This adds to Moderna's existing strategic relationships with AstraZeneca for cardiovascular disease; Alexion for rare diseases, such as life-threatening blood disorders; and the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for biodefense.

Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics
Source: Moderna Therapeutics
Stéphane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics
"We are advancing a platform with widespread reach across multiple therapeutic areas and modalities. The broad potential impact of our technology compelled us to rethink how biotech companies develop drugs." -Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna Therapeutics

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