Moderna, Living a Charmed Life, Pulls in Another $125M From Alexion

1/13/14Follow @xconomy

It’s just another day at the office for Moderna Therapeutics. Ho hum, it secured another $125 million.

The Cambridge, MA-based biotech company, which is seeking to create a new class of therapies around messenger RNA molecules, said today it has pulled in a $100 million up-front cash payment from Cheshire, CT-based Alexion Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ALXN).

The deal, announced this morning at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, gives Alexion the right to develop and commercialize as many as 10 messenger RNA therapies that come from Moderna’s technology, and can be used to fight rare diseases. Alexion has also agreed to make a $25 million equity investment in the startup, and it will pay undisclosed milestone payments to Moderna and single- to mid-double-digit percentage royalties if any of the mRNA drugs turn into marketable products.

For Alexion, the deal clearly represents an opportunity to diversify beyond the success with its one marketed antibody drug. For Moderna, it represents just the latest in a string of jaw-dropping deals for a startup company with a big idea and not a single drug yet in clinical trials. Last year, the company turned heads by forming an alliance with AstraZeneca that brought in $240 million up front, and gave AZ the right to make mRNA drugs against cardiovascular, metabolic, and kidney-related targets. It followed that up with a lucrative contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to make mRNA drugs against infectious diseases. Then, even though it had years of cash in the bank, it raised an additional $110 million from private equity investors.

“They are really rocking it,” said John Maraganore, the CEO of Cambridge, MA-based Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, in an interview at the JP Morgan conference.

For more on the Moderna technology, check this story about its private equity financing in November.

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