Moderna lands $25M grant to develop its RNA platform against infectious diseases, bioterror

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel

Moderna Therapeutics' messenger RNA therapy platform is attracting attention these days. The Cambridge, MA-based company has won a notable deal with the U.S. government--worth up to $25 million--to develop its therapeutics to make antibody-producing drugs that would combat emerging infectious diseases and biological health threats.

"We were awarded this major grant after an intense and rigorous scientific review, and it is a testament to our team's progress and to the profound implications of messenger RNA therapeutics that our work was funded," Moderna president and founding CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.

This $24.6 million grant, issued by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will help Moderna, a 2013 Fierce 15 company, support research for up to 5 years to advance its antibody-producing drug candidates into preclinical testing and human clinical trials. In March, DARPA awarded Moderna a $700,000 "seeding" grant to begin work on the project.

Moderna's novel drug method works by tapping into the body's own cells and turning them into makers of human proteins or antibodies, which could combat a wide range of diseases. The platform could not only help speed the development and production of safer, reliable and more robust immune-boosting treatments, it also has the potential to drastically reduce the cost of developing protein therapies.

The grant is part of a DARPA program aimed at developing new platform technologies that could be safely and rapidly deployed to the U.S. population to provide almost instant protection in the event of an infectious outbreak or biological weapons attack, even in cases when the pathogen or infectious agent is not known.

A 2013 Fierce 15 company, Moderna forged an impressive preclinical pact in March, winning $240 million in upfront cash from London-based drug giant AstraZeneca ($AZN) to fuel discovery of messenger RNA therapies.

- here's the press release

Special Report: 2013 Fierce 15 - Moderna Therapeutics

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