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Moderna To Make Public Debut As Biggest Biotech IPO To Date

Wow. Moderna Therapeutics’ IPO is expected to start trading this morning in what is being touted as one the largest U.S. biotech IPOs ever.

On Thursday, Cambridge, Mass.-based Moderna raised over $604.3 million, valuing the company at a whopping $7.5 billion. The offering was reportedly larger than anticipated, with 10 underwriters led by Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan. The company sold 26.3 million shares at $23 apiece and is trading on the Nasdaq under the symbol “MRNA.”

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That ticker symbol is no coincidence. Moderna is a leading company in the race to develop treatments based on messenger RNA (mRNA). As its name suggests, mRNA conveys information about amino acid sequences from genetic material stored in a cell’s nucleus to ribosomes in the cytoplasm, where proteins are manufactured by the cell. The idea behind Moderna is to develop mRNA-based treatments that make cells create more of the specific proteins that are absent or deficient in patients with certain conditions, such as cancer.

The company is still years away from releasing a commercially viable product. The more promising treatments in its pipeline are still in very early trials.

As a private company, Moderna had raised a total of $1.8 billion since its inception in 2010. Most recently, it netted a $500 million Series G round in February 2018, at a pre-money valuation of $6.5 billion, from investors such as Viking Global Investors and Sequoia Capital China.

In August, our Joanna Glasner reported on how Moderna Therapeutics was the largest Boston-based funding recipient of 2018 for the year so far, having raised a total of $625 million across two late-stage rounds.

She also wrote about how Boston had regained its longstanding place as the second-largest U.S. startup funding hub.

“Boston has been the center of the biotech universe forever,” said Dylan Morris, a partner and Boston and Silicon Valley-based VC firm CRV, at that time.

Moderna joins a list of 21 Boston-area venture-backed companies that have turned to the public markets so far in 2018, the majority of which are life science startups. Prior to Moderna, the largest offerings were for Rubius Therapeutics, a developer of red cell therapeutics and cybersecurity provider Carbon Black.

This IPO is particularly significant because it proves, in a way, that while biotech is not necessarily the sexiest sector in tech due to its long cycles between conception for a drug and approval (investors have to be oh-so-patient), it can be very lucrative.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

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