Enabling Rational Drug Design at an Unprecedented Scale

Our Research Engine enables scientists across our ventures and partners to get large quantities of high-quality research mRNA in an expedited timeframe in order to undertake rational design of mRNA medicines. By working in an integrated fashion, the Research Engine enables us to rapidly move our mRNA medicines through the drug discovery phase – from initial concept to development candidate (DC) nomination.

The output and rapid cycle times of the Research Engine also allow our scientists to explore mRNA biology with accelerated experiments and a faster learning cycle. Advancements are shared across the Moderna ecosystem, creating a network effect that is creating knowledge for the entire mRNA field.


Drug Design Studio – Digital Design and Ordering of mRNA for Research

Our Drug Design Studio is a proprietary digital tool developed by our in-house software engineering team. It enables scientists at Moderna’s ventures and New Venture Labs, as well as our biopharma partners, to digitally design and order mRNA constructs for use in discovery research and preclinical studies through an encrypted and secure portal.

Scientists can begin by selecting any protein in the human proteome to be further engineered, including antibodies, or they can design novel proteins like traps, fusion proteins, or completely novel scaffolds and sequences. All can be designed to explore previously undruggable pathways.

The Drug Design Studio integrates with Moderna’s automation platforms – directing orders through each phase of mRNA synthesis. Once the order is placed, Moderna’s high-throughput mRNA pre-clinical production facility manages the manufacturing of mRNA constructs and delivers them in just weeks.

Automated Production and Manufacturing Capabilities – Rapid Production and Delivery of mRNA for Research

Our highly automated production capabilities power our discovery and pre-clinical development efforts with breadth, scale and speed that is uncommon in our industry.

Once an mRNA drug order is placed via the Drug Design Studio, deploying the most advanced robotics technology, we automate every step of the process in the creation of each mRNA construct, from the rapid synthesis of each mRNA to filtering and purification.

With this technology, we can achieve:

  • High levels of purification;
  • Unprecedented scale, with the capacity to produce up to 1,000 unique mRNA constructs per month, for research, drug discovery and preclinical testing — with a cycle time of a handful of weeks;
  • Precise control and versatility enabled by constant robotic reporting and data-generation.

Leveraging the components of our Research Engine, we empower scientists across our ecosystem to conduct rational drug design and accelerate the pace of mRNA drug discovery. 

We aim to accelerate the pace and success rate of mRNA discovery research efforts for both our ventures and our partners. With the ability to receive high-quality mRNA constructs in a short period of time, scientists are able to run experiments very quickly to test a concept. Scientists receive data readouts quickly, which in turn enables the design of immediate follow-on experiments. Additionally, scientists can design large parallel experiments with multiple comparison arms using different mRNA constructs. And this enables scientists to narrow their field of drugs candidates rapidly, ultimately bringing forth development candidates that can advance into and through the clinical development process.

Two examples of the speed and rational drug design enabled by our Research Engine:
Moderna was able to advance our mRNA vaccine for Chikungunya (mRNA-1388), from idea to DC nomination in 7 months, and our partner Merck was able to run a 16-arm trial in parallel, arriving at a DC nomination for its infectious disease vaccine mRNA MRK-1777 in just 10 months.

Once a development candidate (DC) is nominated, it then becomes managed by our Early Development Engine.