Moderna Therapeutics has launched a new company focused on developing mRNA-based oncology treatments, Onkaido Therapeutics, one day after inking a rare disease focused mRNA therapeutics deal with Alexion Pharmaceuticals that earned it a $25 million equity investment as well as up to $100 million in upfront payments.

Onkaido Therapeutics will launch with $20 million in committed capital from Moderna. The new company will focus initially on 15 preclinical drug candidates in the areas of apoptosis, central regulatory nodes, and immunotherapy. Several of these candidates are already under evaluation in in vivo disease models. By establishing Onkaido as a standalone unit, Moderna intends to accelerate the development of mRNA Therapeutics™ for oncology and deliver the potential of these new cancer treatments to patients.

Stephen Hoge, M.D., senior vice president, corporate development and new drug concepts at Moderna will take on the added role of founding CEO for Onkaido, and Peter F. Smith, Ph. D., former head of non-clinical discovery and development at Millennium Pharmaceuticals, will serve as founding CSO.

“The vast potential for messenger RNA Therapeutics will only be tapped by simultaneously industrializing our platform and developing our key programs in the clinic as quickly and safely as possible,” said Stephane Bancel, president and founding CEO, Moderna Therapeutics. “Moderna’s novel technology holds great therapeutic promise in oncology. We will benefit by enabling Stephen, Peter and the scientific team to focus intensely on the best, most rapid path toward turning our discoveries into cancer therapies that make a difference for patients.”

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