Moderna CEO’s pay jumps 41% to $18.2M as COVID vaccine giant expands globally

Moderna’s business took flight in 2021 thanks to authorizations for its COVID-19 vaccine, and so did its CEO’s pay.

Moderna is hiking CEO Stephane Bancel’s 2021 pay by 41% to $18.2 million, citing “unprecedented growth” at the mRNA specialist, a securities filing (PDF) shows. The CEO pay bump comes as the Massachusetts biotech generated $18.5 billion in revenues last year, a massive increase over the prior year when it recorded $803 million.

As Moderna transformed into a commercial drugmaker with annual revenues rivaling Big Pharma players, Bancel could be up for bigger pay checks in the future.

Moderna recently changed its compensation peer group, which is a list of similar companies that a firm uses to make sure its own executive benefits are competitive in the market. Rather than some large biotechs such as Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Sarepta Therapeutics and Incyte, Moderna’s new peer list includes several Big Pharmas, including AbbVie, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Merck & Co., and Pfizer, the CEOs of which all made onto the top 15 highest-paid biopharma CEO list of 2020. The new peer group takes effect for setting Moderna execs’ 2022 compensations.

The majority of Bancel’s 2021 pay package came from $15 million in equity awards, up from $9 million in 2020. This part of the compensation is considered “at risk,” given it can only be collected over time when certain criteria are met.

Starting from 2021, Moderna introduced a performance-based share unit plan, which for Bancel made up 25% of his total stock award. These shares are tied to Moderna’s performance during a three-year period and “focus on pipeline development goals that support our long-term strategy,” Moderna said in a securities filing. As Moderna noted, such awards only convey value if its stock price rises.

Besides the stock award, Bancel enjoyed a 5.3% salary jump to nearly $1 million, but his bonus dropped 21% to $1.5 million.

When 2021 started, Moderna set a target bonus that matches Bancel’s salary. After evaluating the company’s performance against a list of corporate goals, the board decided on a 150% payout.

Under Bancel’s leadership, Moderna exceled on several line items on the goal scorecard, including reeling in $17.7 billion sales from the now fully FDA-approved COVID vaccine Spikevax, well above the target of $14.5 billion. But when it comes to generation of proof-of-concept data across therapeutic areas and the number of new lead projects and clinical trials opened, the company underperformed.

One major stumble Moderna suffered last year came in December from its mRNA-based seasonal flu vaccine. That mRNA shot, dubbed mRNA-1010, reported early antibody response data that didn’t look any better than existing high-efficacy flu shots such as Sanofi’s Fluzone HD.

In 2021, Moderna expanded its pipeline candidates from 21 to 37, according to the securities filing.

With a record cash flow of $17.6 billion at the end of 2021—versus $5.2 billion in 2020—Moderna has recently launched an expansion campaign.

To support the development and roll-out of Spikevax, Moderna already more than doubled its headcount in 2021 to over 2,700 employees. The company recently unveiled plans to install new commercial teams in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden, and to open new offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, with hiring sprees planned. The U.S. biotech will also build an mRNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Kenya to supply for Africa.