Following the successful development (and financial success) of its mRNA vaccine, biotech company Moderna is now looking to expand into the gene editing field. During a second-quarter earnings call on August 5, 2021, Moderna executives expressed that the company is ready to “expand our horizons” with external technologies or products.
It is well known that Moderna has the funds to back it up—the company has a soaring $157B market cap and its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine (potential brand name “Spikevax”) is expected to bring in $20 billion this year based on existing orders, with more to come following the FDA’s authorization of COVID-19 booster shots on August 12, 2021.
Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel indicated during the August 5 call that the company looking towards new opportunities in nucleic acid technologies, gene therapy, gene editing, and mRNA, as well as new delivery technologies that could expand its existing mRNA work. “We would be interested in technology licenses and/or development candidate licenses and/or, if it makes sense, M&A,” he stated.
Moderna President and R&D head Stephen Hoge noted that the biotech company has been paying close attention to the gene editing field and considering how its mRNA technology could be applied to help with “delivering gene-editing cargoes” to different tissues, asserting that “we think it’s the right time for us to start to expand in that direction.”
On the other hand, Moderna is not looking to acquire small or large molecule candidates because, as CEO Bancel put it, “We love information molecules too much.”
Moderna’s announcement comes hot on the heels of gene-editing company Intellia’s groundbreaking results with its CRISPR-based transthyretin (ATTR) amyloidosis therapy in June, marking the first time that CRISPR has successfully been used to treat a genetic disorder in vivo.
The reveal of Moderna’s business development plans resulted in share price increases for several gene-editing companies, including Intellia, Editas, and Beam Therapeutics. Other companies in the gene-editing field whose technology or products could potentially be acquisition targets include CRISPR Therapeutics, Precision Biosciences, and Sangamo Therapeutics.