Investor behind Moderna raises $3.4 billion fund focused on biotechnology

Lordstown Motors takes on 'Voltage Valley' on a wild trip after financial uncertainty reveals

Sign up here How is coronavirus taking its toll on markets, business, and our everyday lives and workplaces? Stay briefed with our coronavirus newsletter. “It’s not in the traditional sense of the word an investment fund . . . none of what we do comes from outside,” Afeyan, who founded Flagship in 2000, told the Financial Times. “It is dedicated to advance each and every bio platform that we invent in-house.”

Rather than hunting for existing early-stage biotechs to finance, the Massachusetts-based group invests in developing technologies and establishing companies within its own four walls. Teams are built around specific areas of interest with the aim of spinning out to form individual companies as the research develops. Flagship’s fund VII comprises $2.2bn raised from investors this year and $1.2bn raised in 2020. The company plans to deploy the cash over the next three years. 

Coronavirus business update Noubar Afeyan, founder of Flagship, said: “The expanded capital base is going to allow us to . . . conduct pioneering science, company creation and growth all under one roof.”

Afeyan said the life sciences company does not focus on creating biotechs that will tackle specific diseases but instead looks to build platforms where technologies can be used in a range of illnesses. Moderna is currently carrying out phase 1 trials of its mRNA technology on HIV and flu. Recommended Flagship has $14.1bn assets under management and spent $4.8bn on its companies over the past four quarters. Last week its drug discovery business Valo Health announced it would go public by merging with a special purpose acquisition company.

Afeyan described Flagship’s strategy as “explorations” and “an unbounded attempt to create scientific advances coupled with product advances”. He said that developing vaccines at Moderna began by asking “if we could use a code molecule or some kind of a molecule that could instruct the body to make any drug we wanted”. Flagship’s most renowned company is Moderna, which was established in 2010 with the aim of developing mRNA therapeutics, and whose chair is Afeyan. The vaccine maker sold $1.7bn worth of Covid jabs in the first three months of the year and its share price has rocketed more than 1,000 per cent since the start of 2020.

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