The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Moderna Therapeutics up to $25 million to research and develop its messenger RNA therapeutics™ platform as a way to make antibody-producing drugs to protect against a range of known and unknown emerging infectious diseases and engineered biological threats.

Moderna says this $24.6 million grant, which is part of a DARPA program called ADEPT: PROTECT (Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics: Prophylactic Options to Environmental and Contagious), could support research for up to five years to advance antibody-producing drug candidates into preclinical testing and clinical trials. The company also received a $0.7 million “seedling” grant from DARPA in March to begin work on the project.

According to the firm, messenger RNA therapeutics can be designed to tap directly into the body’s natural processes to produce antibodies without exposing people to a weakened or inactivated virus or pathogen, which could speed the development and manufacture of better, safer treatments.

“We were awarded this major grant after an intense and rigorous scientific review, and it is a testament to our team’s progress and to the profound implications of messenger RNA therapeutics that our work was funded,” Stephane Bancel, president and founding CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to further expanding the development of our platform into this critically important new therapeutic area.”

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