Moderna Therapeutics

What is your corporation most trying to accomplish with its new innovation?

Moderna Therapeutics is pioneering a new scale of drug discovery and development, enabling a series of new drug modalities derived from the ability of modified messenger RNA (mRNA) to utilize the body’s cellular machinery to produce its own healing proteins or antibodies. These mRNA Therapeutics hold the potential to address a myriad of diseases that are not treatable through current approaches, and can be made and dosed with unprecedented precision and speed, vastly reducing the time and costs of traditional drug development.

What do you think sets your corporation’s work apart from the work of others in your field?

mRNA Therapeutics may address hundreds of diseases that are not treatable with current approaches.Today’s technologies only target proteins that circulate in the bloodstream or so-called secreted proteins. In contrast, mRNA Therapeutics can produce secreted proteins, and can also produce proteins that function only inside a cell – known as intracellular proteins. In this way, we may enable the development of new medicines for disease targets that are currently considered “undruggable.” In terms of drug development and manufacturing, historically, the biopharmaceutical industry has addressed many diseases by creating new therapeutic proteins through recombinant technology and injecting or infusing them into patients’ bodies to treat disease. This traditional approach to drug development and manufacturing can cost billions of dollars and take months to scale up and produce a new drug. In contrast, our mRNA Therapeutics act as cellular software, essentially directing the manufacture of therapeutic proteins within targeted tissues in the body. Our business model is also differentiating. We are establishing an ecosystem of in-house teams and external partners to drive our clinical programs and accelerate drug development across multiple pathways simultaneously.

What or who inspired your corporation to come up with this innovation?

At Moderna, we have assembled a group of scientific leaders who are unparalleled in their talent and drive. The company is organized into more than 20 departments and functional areas – from mRNA sciences and chemistry, to formulation and production, to those working with our development partners – each led by a world-class expert. The credit for our success really lies with these scientists who share a true sense of purpose in building a company that is dedicated to bringing this new class of treatments to patients with serious diseases.

What role has serendipity played in the turning points in your corporation’s mission?

The genesis of the company has some element of serendipity – combined with tremendous foresight and know-how. The story of the company began when Moderna co-founder Noubar Afeyan, PhD, Managing Partner and CEO of Flagship Ventures, was presented with groundbreaking data showing that stem cells could be reprogrammed for specific tasks in the body using messenger RNA, without triggering an immune response. Moderna was created after one simple but profound question was asked: “What if mRNA could be a drug?” Fast forward to 2014 and Moderna is advancing rapidly but systematically to deliver on this promise.

What have been the greatest challenges that your corporation has encountered in developing your innovation?

mRNA Therapeutics are truly novel. No one has ever developed an mRNA drug, which means that we are breaking new ground in all aspects of our business – from drug discovery and development, manufacturing and, eventually, commercialization. We must scale up the company both quickly and methodically – pioneering the use of new automation technology, developing manufacturing processes designed specifically for mRNA drugs and accelerating our research programs. Our challenge is to cultivate the seamless integration of the company’s talent and technological capabilities to accelerate the pace of scientific learning and discovery. How do we know that our team is rising to the challenge? Each week, our scientists are making key discoveries, gaining phenomenal new insights and driving our research programs forward at an unprecedented rate.

Do you believe leaders and innovators have certain qualities that they all share? If so, what?

The best leaders and innovators possess great vision and perseverance. They don’t seek incremental change, but instead look for opportunities with real impact, working to drive improvements that are 10 or a hundred times greater than the status quo, and facing challenges head on to achieve their goals.

How would your corporation most like to change the world through its work?

At Moderna, we are working to advancing a whole new drug modality – one that could change medicine. With our technology, our goal is to successfully address thousands of diseases that are not treatable today. And the reduced costs derived from our drug development model could enable the availability of these medicines globally to populations who are currently underserved.

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