The US biotech, Moderna Therapeutics, which already has around $1 billion in cash and is developing drugs based on a molecule called messenger ribonucleic acid, or m-RNA, has received another $140 million in investment from AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical giant.
The British pharmaceutical, AstraZeneca, said on Wednesday that the new investment in Moderna was part of its preferred-stock financing strategy which had resulted in increasing its stake in the company to 9 percent. Moderna was first invested in by AstraZeneca in 2013.
Messenger RNA is the carrier of the recipe for making proteins, the building blocks of life, in the human body. When used as a medicine, m-RNA has the potential to offer new ways to deal with difficult-to-treat, life-threatening diseases such as cancer, infections, and heart and kidney diseases. Once injected into the body, the RNA works by instructing the ribosomes found in cells to produce a particular protein. This is analogous to a 3D printing software – in this case, the RNA – instructing a 3D printer – the ribosome – to print the desired object – the protein.
However, Moderna’s research for using m-RNA to treat diseases is still a work in progress. Currently, it has two Phase I studies underway for producing vaccines for m-RNA-based infectious diseases, with an approval for a third Phase I study of vascular disease treatment filed by Moderna and AstraZeneca.
Moderna also has strategic partnerships with other pharmaceuticals, namely, Alexion Pharmaceuticals and Vertex Pharmaceuticals, in conjunction with its agreement with AstraZeneca.