Moderna CEO Bancel snags close to $13M in 2020 pay, thanks to COVID-19 vaccine work

Moderna entered 2020 a clinical-stage biotech with messenger RNA on the brain. Now, the company is among the few with an authorized COVID-19 vaccine, and that swift ascent could land it among the top vaccine players by revenue this year, CEO Stéphane Bancel said in January.

And all that action helped bulk up Bancel's pocketbook. Bancel snared a pay package worth $12.85 million for 2020, up from $8.9 million in 2019, according to a proxy filing this month. The chief executive collected a salary of $950,000, a $1.9 million bonus, and stock options worth $9 million.

The total is far below what Bancel totted up for 2018, after the company's $604 million public offering. That year, the CEO's pay package amounted to $58.6 million, putting him at the top of Fierce Pharma's list of highest-paid biopharma CEOs that year.

Moderna’s big success story last year was the development of its COVID-19 vaccine, now among a handful of shots rolling out in the U.S., Europe and beyond. The biotech was also the second vaccine player—after Pfizer and BioNTech—to bag U.S. authorization for an mRNA shot.

Before the pandemic, the technology had never been used in an approved product. Now, companies like Pfizer and Moderna are looking at the gene-based tech to advance vaccines against other diseases. And that’s just one prominent example.

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Moderna’s shot scored FDA authorization in mid-December. The company in late February said it had sewn up advanced purchase agreements worth $18.4 billion for vaccine deliveries in 2021.

In January, Bancel told Fierce Pharma that the company's mRNA vaccine authorization provided “validation of a new class of medicine” that Moderna has been working on for nearly 10 years. He said the company would explore its mRNA technology in areas like oncology, rare diseases, autoimmune conditions and more. 

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As Moderna continues to negotiate deals for its shot, it's “not impossible" that the company's 2021 sales could eclipse "the entire revenue of one of the four big vaccine companies,” he said. The company “might be one of the top four, top three,” vaccine companies this year, he added.

That's quite a change for a company with little to no revenue before now. But though Moderna's board didn't exactly foresee a pandemic, it did set Bancel up for a big payoff as the company moved products to market.

Most of his outsized 2018 compensation package came in the form of option awards that would vest in tranches over five years. The CEO snagged 900,000 shares in February 2018 and another 4.59 million shares in December of the same year, according to a securities filing from the time. 

Moderna has set a goal to produce a minimum 700 million doses this year. The company is targeting 1 billion doses on the high end, and it aims to crank out 1.4 billion doses in 2022. 

Meanwhile, the company on Monday said it had delivered its hundred-millionth vaccine dose to the United States, where more than 67 million Moderna shots have been administered so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.