Enabling Drug Discovery & Development

We have built Moderna on the guiding premise that if using mRNA as a drug works for one disease, it should work for many diseases. And, if this is possible – given the right approach and infrastructure – it could lead to a breadth, scale and speed of drug discovery and development and manufacturing not common in the biopharma industry.

Our Operating System

Recognizing the broad potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that functions very much like an operating system on a computer. It is designed so that it can plug and play interchangeably with different programs.  In our case, the ‘program” or “app” is our mRNA drug - the unique mRNA sequence that codes for a protein.

We have more than 300 scientists and engineers solely dedicated to advancing Moderna’s platform technology. They are organized around key disciplines and work in an integrated fashion to advance knowledge surrounding mRNA science and solve for challenges that are unique to mRNA drug development. Some of these disciplines include mRNA biology, chemistry, formulation & delivery, bioinformatics and protein engineering.

Our mRNA Drugs – The ‘Software’

When we have a concept for a new mRNA drug and set out in the discovery phase to research the concept, fundamental components are already in place, thanks to the ongoing work of our platform scientists and engineers. 

Generally, the only thing that changes from one mRNA drug to another mRNA drug is the coding region – the actual genetic code that instructs ribosomes to make protein.  Utilizing these instruction sets as our drugs gives our mRNA medicines a very software-like quality.  We also have the ability to combine different mRNA sequences encoding for different proteins in a single mRNA drug.       

We are leveraging the flexibility afforded by our platform and the fundamental role mRNA plays in protein synthesis to pursue mRNA drugs for a broad spectrum of diseases.

Within a given drug modality, the base components are generally identical from drug to drug - formulation, 5’ region and 3’ region. Only the coding region varies based on the protein/s the drug is directing cells to produce.

Learn how our Research Engine and Early Development Engine are enabling us to fully maximize the promise of mRNA to research and develop medicines at a speed and scale not common in the biopharma industry. 

Overcoming Key Challenges

Using mRNA to create medicines is a complex undertaking and requires overcoming novel scientific and technical challenges.  We need to get the mRNA into the targeted tissue and cells while evading the immune system. If the immune system is triggered, the resultant response may limit protein production and, thus, limit the therapeutic benefit of our mRNA medicines. We also need ribosomes to think the mRNA was produced naturally, so they can accurately read the instructions to produce the right protein. And we need to ensure the cells express enough of the protein to have the desired therapeutic effect. 

Our multidisciplinary platform teams work together closely to address these scientific and technical challenges. This intensive cross-functional collaboration has enabled us to advance key aspects of our platform and make significant strides to deliver mRNA medicines for patients.