Speed to market has always been critical in the life sciences industry. Companies that bring products to market quickly and efficiently are better positioned to succeed and improve patient outcomes. Or so the industry wisdom goes.
For Moderna, the covid wunderkind that captured almost $40 billion in sales over the course of a couple of years – it’s go-to -market feat was perhaps even more impressive given the brevity of its existing resume.
“If you just kind of play back the last five years pre COVID Moderna was a research company, no commercial, no products on the market,” explains Moderna CFO Jamey Mock, who joined the biotech firm from scientific instruments maker PerkinElmer, in August of 2022.
For his part, Mock joined a very different Moderna from the one that existed only a few years earlier. The vaccine that arrived prior to Mock’s arrival, and effectively served so many, is undoubtedly one of the pandemic’s greatest achievements – but it would likely be a mistake to view it as something more.
For Mock, Covid’s greatest redeeming legacy for the world at large is the life sciences industry’s hyper focus on reduced development and drug production time. It’s a phenomenon that has only intensified post covid, and one Mock routinely seeks to better expose to industry analysts and investors, as he echoes the drugmaker’s pledge to introduce five new drugs by 2025 and 15 by 2028.
“We knew Covid wasn’t going to last forever, and we knew we had to bring more drugs to market as fast as possible. So we have invested a ton in R&D,” comments Mock, who tells us Moderna expects to spend $4.5 billion in R&D during 2024 compared to $500 million in 2019.
Still, as sales of Covid vaccine decline, Moderna’s guidance for 2024 sets revenue expectations at $4 billion – a sum that when placed alongside the company’s $4.5 billion R&D investment can’t help but spotlight a $500 million gap.
“We’ve actually offered guidance that we expect to lose monthly this year,” explains Mock, who says the response from investors is what one might expect.
He adds: “People are saying: ‘Yes, we see you’re investing in all these wonderful products. But when will you turn a profit or at least breakeven?’”
For its part, Moderna has told investors it expects to break even as a company in 2026.,
Back inside the drugmaker’s labs, the hyper focus on development times is evident and as go-to-market times shorten and the probability of a drug’s success grows. Or so Mock explains as he details how Moderna is “de-risking” drug development.
De-risking, a term seemingly native to the world of risk management and finance, has become one of Mock’s most salient talking points as he seeks to illustrate the advantages of the drugmaker’s mRNA development platform.
Whereas DNA stores all the genetic information in the human body; mRNA carries that genetic information, similar to a blueprint or set of instructions. Along the way, the mRNA molecule can be reprogrammed.
“That’s the beauty of our mRNA platform – we can de-risk a product and quickly reprogram it,” explains Mock, who points to an experimental flu vaccine that disappointed Moderna investors early last year when it came up short in a late-stage trial. However, after tweaking the formula behind the mRNA vaccine, Moderna within six months met all the goals needed for a successful shot in a phase 3 trial.
Says Mock: “That’s the kind of rapid development and type of proof that is now giving us a high probability of success.” -Jack Sweeney