Moderna’s cash juggernaut rolls on with record $604M IPO

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Moderna's mRNA technology is still largely unproven, but that hasn't discouraged investors. (diegograndi)

Moderna’s IPO always looked like a record breaker for biotech and came in even larger than expected at $604 million, valuing the company at an eye-watering $7.9 billion.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company, which will trade on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol "MRNA," says it will use the bulk of the funds for drug discovery and clinical development along with further development of its messenger RNA technology platform.

Moderna sold 26.3 million shares at $23 apiece in its IPO, which looks certain to crown a bumper year for biotech IPOs already heading for the 60-filing mark with three weeks to go, and the highest number since 2014, according to Renaissance Capital.

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The amount raised eclipses the previous $324 million Nasdaq record set by CAR-T player Allogene in October after it priced at the top of the expected range, as well as Innovent Biologics’ Hong Kong listing that raised $421 million.

Moderna has already been spectacularly successful raising cash through private rounds, including a $500 million series G in February that took its bank balance to about $1.4 billion and its overall fundraising tally north of $2 billion since inception.

It’s a phenomenal performance given the company’s mRNA platform still hasn’t generated a marketed product and has yet to even generate a late-stage clinical program. Add to that a degree of regulatory uncertainty, as the FDA hasn’t yet been called on to review an mRNA-based drug.

Moderna’s core technology uses mRNA to spur the production of human proteins within patient cells, creating what the company describes as an in vivo "factory" for targeted therapies.

The biotech will certainly need its deep pockets as strives to advance is 21 mRNA-based pipeline programs—spanning infectious diseases, immuno-oncology and rare diseases—through clinical development and toward the market.

At least 10 of those are already in clinical trials, currently led by AstraZeneca-partnered AZD8601, a VEGF-A drug which is in phase 2 for heart failure, and other programs including phase 1 vaccines for cancer and viral infections such as chikungunya and Zika, as well as preclinical candidates for rare diseases including Fabry disease and phenylketonuria.

To help ramp up its clinical projects, Moderna opened a 200,000-square-foot production unit for clinical trial material in Norwood, Massachusetts, in July.

With the dust settled on the IPO, all eyes will now turn to how well Moderna’s shares will perform in the coming weeks and months.