Biotech unicorn Moderna raises another $125 million in expanded Merck partnership

Moderna Therapeutics can be banking one more $125 million in an expanded partnership with Merck around a personalized cancer vaccine.

The product, called mRNA-5671, targets mutations in a gene called KRAS which Moderna says occur in about 0 percent of pancreatic cancers as well as also 30 percent of non-smaller-cell lung cancers. This particular’s the fourth program on which the two companies are collaborating.

The $125 million through Merck comes within the form of series H preferred equity; Moderna completed a series G fundraising round earlier This particular year. This particular’s at This particular point raised more than $1.6 billion in equity as well as also $1 billion through partnership payments, CEO Stephane Bancel said in a telephone interview Thursday.

having a private valuation of close to $7 billion at its last financing round, Moderna’s future as a private company has come into question. The Wall Street Journal reported in March, citing an unnamed source, which the biotech unicorn was considering a dual listing within the U.S. as well as also Hong Kong.

Bancel said Thursday which’s not the plan.

“We are not planning on submitting an application to list in Hong Kong,” he said in an interview. “We have no plans to list somewhere else outside the U.S. We are a U.S.-based company; the U.S. can be a logical place to list.”

Bancel declined to comment further on any plans for an initial public offering, saying only which “we are always looking at our capital needs as well as also accessing the public markets could be among our options.”

Meanwhile, funds don’t appear to be in short supply for the biotech company, though This particular does have a pipeline of 19 candidates to support across infectious diseases, immuno-oncology, cardiovascular disease as well as also rare liver diseases.

The Merck partnership comes with one more potential payment of an undisclosed amount if Merck decides to opt in after human proof-of-concept studies.

Moderna makes drugs based on messenger RNA, essentially aiming to deliver a blueprint for cells to create specific proteins. The compound within the expanded Merck collaboration, mRNA-5671, encodes for the four most common mutations within the KRAS gene.

Though This particular’s called a vaccine, This particular’s not intended to prevent disease; rather, This particular’s designed to be a therapeutic vaccine, inducing the immune system to recognize as well as also attack certain markers on cancer cells. Moderna said mRNA-5671 can be designed to target most of the KRAS mutations found in non-smaller-cell lung cancer, colorectal cancer as well as also pancreatic cancer, as well as also will only be tested in patients whose tumors express one of those four mutations.

Under the agreement, the companies may also collaborate on additional cancer vaccine programs.

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