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New Cambridge biotech comes out of stealth mode

Yet another biotechnology company has opened for business in the backyard of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jump-started with $40 million in funding and support from heavyweights in the biotech and pharmaceutical fields, Moderna Therapeutics is aiming to create drugs that stimulate the production of proteins to treat cancer, genetic diseases, hemophilia, diabetes, and other conditions.

The Cambridge company was founded 18 months ago. But Moderna has been in stealth mode as it has gone about conducting preclinical trials to demonstrate the potential of its drug-development research. It expects to publish the results of those tests next year.

The initial funding, from the venture­ capital firm Flagship Ventures and private investors, will be used to begin conducting human clinical trials within the next two years for a treatment that is designed to speed up the way therapeutic proteins are generated, and reduce the cost of such treatments.


"We are working with great urgency and great care to translate this groundbreaking science into new treatments for patients," Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's chief executive, said in a news release.

Moderna was launched at Flagship VentureLabs, an incubator program associated with Cambridge-based Flagship Ventures, which invests in early-stage biotech companies.

"Moderna's promise rivals that of the earliest biotechnology companies over 30 years ago: adding an entirely new drug category to the pharmaceutical arsenal in the fight against important diseases," said Noubar Afeyan, Flagship chief executive and chairman of Moderna's board.

Moderna has also enlisted the aid of several luminaries in the biotech community.

They include Robert Langer, an MIT professor whose Langer Lab has spun out numerous drug companies, and Derrick Rossi, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.

Langer and Rossi are academic cofounders of Moderna.

Michael B. Farrell
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