Moderna taps $1.34B stock offering to bankroll its promising COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna manufacturing site
Moderna, hoping to capitalize on promising phase 1 data, aims to raise $1.34 billion through a public offering to support the manufacturing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate. (Moderna)

Money from the largest-ever biotech IPO, funding from an international outbreak preparedness group and an award from the U.S. government are apparently still not enough for Moderna, a front-runner in the race for an effective COVID-19 vaccine.

The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech aims to raise $1.34 billion in a public stock offering, it said Monday. The company plans to primarily use the proceeds to fund manufacturing and distribution of mRNA-1273, its mRNA vaccine candidate against the novel coronavirus.

The announcement came on the same day Moderna offered an early peek into results from a phase 1 test in eight individuals. The promising interim data jacked up its stock price by 20%. The new stock offering, at $76 apiece, represents a 5% discount to Moderna’s closing price Monday.

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RELATED: Moderna posts 'positive' early data for COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna has attracted some big money since its inception in 2009. After several eye-catching mega-financing rounds from venture capital firms, the company went public in late 2018 with a $600 million Nasdaq raise, which is still the largest biotech IPO to date.

Moderna has also won some prominent backers specifically for mRNA-1273, which is currently the COVID-19 vaccine furthest ahead in development in the U.S. During the early days, when the novel coronavirus was only known to be spreading in China, Moderna secured financial support from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to help advance its mRNA vaccine candidate.

In April, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority committed up to $483 million to cover costs during the R&D phase before FDA approval.

As multiple vaccine candidates have entered the clinic—among nearly 100 projects, total, in various stages of development—some industry watchers say they're not concerned whether there will be an effective shot but rather whether there will be enough doses for everyone.

RELATED: Moderna aims for a billion COVID-19 shots a year with Lonza manufacturing tie-up

To scale up manufacturing, Moderna recently tapped Swiss CDMO Lonza to make its shots at two facilities in the U.S. and Switzerland, aiming to produce up to 1 billion doses a year. But as Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel recently said, “no manufacturer can make enough doses for the planet.”

Several other vaccine players have also been preparing to increase production capacity. Sanofi, in an alliance with GlaxoSmithKline, currently has the capacity to make about 100 million to 600 million doses, and it's planning to expand to 1 billion doses a year, CEO Paul Hudson told investors in April.

Pfizer and partner BioNTech plan to produce “millions” of doses of their mRNA candidate by year-end and scale up further to “hundreds of millions” in 2021. German mRNA specialist CureVac, which counts the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation among its investors, is also prepared to manufacture “several hundred million doses per year” at its facility.

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