With new technological innovations springing up every other day, it is intriguing to find one that impacts us directly or has the potential to revolutionize our lifestyle.
In the last few years, biotechnology has us all asking just how far can we go when it comes to saving lives. Now, Massachusetts-based biotechnology company, Moderna Therapeutics, aims to revolutionize the field of medicine with its mRNA medicines.
What is Moderna about?
Based in Cambridge, Moderna is a drug discovery and development company that makes use of messenger RNA science to treat various diseases.
The company was established in 2010. Back then it went with the name “ModeRNA.” The brains behind the company are Harvard colleagues Derrick Rossi and Tim Springer, who later brought on Kenneth R. Chien, Bob Langer, and CEO of Flagship Ventures Noubar Afeyan.
Although it had a website, the company didn’t market its treatments until 2012. It was later, in 2013, when Moderna entered a 5-year agreement with the AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company, to commercialize mRNA therapeutics for treating severe ailments.
The science behind mRNA therapeutics
To put it simply, mRNA plays an important part in expressing the genetic information in our DNA. DNA carries the information about how you’d look, the level of your intelligence if you’d have a certain disease and everything that makes you distinct, but RNA delivers this information to the ribosome so that proteins that carry out the expression of DNA can be made.
Researchers use mRNA to study the gene expression for evaluating a variety of diseases. Moderna is making use of this potential to introduce mRNA medicines. These medicines are not your ordinary medicines. Conventional medicines treat diseases by directly inducing a relieving effect.
Coming back to mRNA medicines, these work by “instructing the patient’s own cells to produce proteins that could prevent, treat, or cure disease.”
Moderna has come up with propriety technologies to produce the desired nucleotide sequences and dictate which protein will be made in order to have the desired effect.
Once the sequence is designed as well as modified, it is made available to the target cells through one of the six modalities that the company has to offer. These include prophylactic vaccines, cancer vaccines, intratumoral immuno-oncology, and localized regenerative therapeutics, to name a few.
Moderna set a historic record of raising $604 million this year. It also became the biotech company with the highest IPO (Initial Public Offer), valuing the company at $7.5 billion. That’s more than 56 other biotech companies combined and it doesn’t even have a marketable product yet.
As for next year, Cami Samuels from Venrock, a company that makes investments in healthcare, says:
”The company will exit at a $3 billion valuation next year. It’s hard for me, looking at their pipeline, to figure out why they’re valued five times, six times [as much as] other companies with the same pipeline,”
According to Business Insider, the company is currently trading below its set IPO value of $7.5 billion.
Although Moderna is not the only biotech company that is making use of mRNAs to provide solutions to pressing healthcare problems, it’s always good to see new biotech-based companies being so optimistic about the future of their utility.
The company has set up New Venture Labs as an incubator for the ongoing research. Moderna is currently focusing on the blue-sky research. Blue-sky research is the type of research that does not follow a specific agenda or have an immediately applicable purpose.
So, their work is more about exploring new avenues that may lead to treating serious ailments through mRNA therapeutics. They ask:
What if mRNA could be a drug?
As for the human trials, they are in the pipeline. A few of the modalities including vaccines and therapeutics have their human-based trials underway.
The company is recruiting participants to study various diseases including cytomegalovirus, solid tumors, advanced/metastatic solid tumors, and relapsed/refractory solid tumors malignancies.
How promising is it?
Although the majority of the ongoing research by Moderna is curiosity driven, the project has the potential to make a significant contribution in the field of healthcare.
This year has been very productive not only for Moderna but in the field of biotechnology in general.
How far do you think Moderna will go? Is its valuation a sign that mRNA is the next frontier in medicine?