Blackstone bankrolls Moderna’s flu shot with $750m

Blackstone bankrolls Moderna’s flu shot with $750m

Moderna’s efforts to develop a range of mRNA vaccines for influenza have been bolstered with funding of up to $750 million from investment firm Blackstone Life Sciences.

The deal comes at a time when Moderna is in the process of refocusing its business after seeing a precipitous decline in sales of COVID-19 vaccines, which brought tens of billions of dollars into the company during the pandemic.

In return for the funding, funds managed by Blackstone will be in line to receive milestones and royalties on any flu vaccine products that emerge from the programme. Moderna will see a reduction in its R&D expenses as a result, but will retain full control of the programmes.

The deal was announced alongside a vaccine R&D update from Moderna, which now has 28 vaccines in development for infectious diseases. Its pipeline includes first-generation, quadrivalent seasonal flu vaccine mRNA-1010 and combination COVID-19/flu shot mRNA-1083, both in late-stage development, with four additional flu candidates in phase 2.

mRNA-1010 is due to be filed for approval before the end of 2024, according to the update (PDF), while a phase 3 trial of mRNA-1083 is fully enrolled, with data expected in the coming months. Blackstone’s funding will allow the programmes to progress more quickly and offsets risk, said Moderna, which is interested in exploring a similar model for other vaccine projects.

At its update, Moderna highlighted its next-generation COVID-19 vaccine and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) shot mRNA-1345, as well as a series of candidates for latent viruses, including varicella-zoster virus (VZV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), norovirus, and Herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Of these, the furthest ahead in development is the RSV vaccine, which could launch later this year and would compete with products from GSK and Pfizer based on conventional vaccine technologies.

“Moderna is advancing a broad and diverse pipeline at a pace not seen before in our industry,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, which estimates that the respiratory vaccine market is worth around $27 billion a year, with flu a $7 billion opportunity.

“Our goal is to launch multiple vaccine products in the next few years and deliver the greatest possible impact to people through mRNA medicines,” he added. “Achieving this ambition requires substantial investment in late-stage studies and we are excited to welcome Blackstone and their innovative financing model.”