Gearing up for commercial ops, Moderna recruits Amgen vet Meline as CFO

As it gears up for phase 3 studies on two vaccines—including its closely watched COVID-19 shot—Moderna is entering a crucial time, its CEO says. And the company will do so with the help of a new finance chief from Big Biotech.

Moderna recruited Amgen vet David Meline, who retired from the California-based biotech giant last year, to be its next chief financial officer, effective Monday. Meline is set to replace Lorence Kim, who will leave the company in August and has sold more than $27 million worth of his company stock in recent weeks.

The Boston mRNA specialist is “entering another critical phase,” CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement about Meline's hire, pointing to forthcoming phase 3 studies for its high-profile coronavirus vaccine and its Cytomegalovirus shot.  

“We have started to build commercial capabilities and started to set up commercial subsidiaries in several countries,” Bancel added. “David’s global biopharmaceutical industry and commercial experience along with his track record as CFO of Amgen for the last six years and before that, as CFO of 3M, make him a great addition to our team."

The move comes as Moderna operates under a spotlight, thanks to its promising COVID-19 vaccine dubbed mRNA-1273. The shot is in phase 2 testing now, and Moderna aims to start phase 3 in July, NIAID director Anthony Fauci said this week in an interview with Howard Bauchner, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. That timeline makes it a frontrunner in the global race for a shot essential to restarting global economies. 

The phase 3 trial will enroll 30,000 people and trial preparations are already underway, Fauci told Bauchner.

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And in another sign that Moderna is considered a top COVID-19 vaccine player, the U.S. government picked Moderna as the only biotech among five COVID-19 vaccine finalists, the New York Times reported Wednesday. Pfizer, Merck, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca were selected as the other finalists.  

In partnership with the NIAID, Moderna was the first to start human testing with its COVID-19 vaccine. The team entered the clinic just 66 days after obtaining the viral sequence, researcher Kizzmekia Corbett said during a FiercePharma virtual roundtable in March.

That was a “world record” as far as Corbett knew. Now, 10 vaccines are in human testing and more than 120 are in preclinical stages, according to the World Health Organization. 

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Even as he’s set to leave the company, Kim has earned millions from his time at the Moderna—and during Moderna’s recent stock run-up on COVID-19 research. In May, he sold shares worth about $27.86 million, according to two SEC filings from May 28 and May 14.