Moderna Therapeutics, a company focused on messenger RNA therapeutics, a new treatment modality to enable the in vivo production of therapeutic proteins, has been awarded up to $25 million to research and develop its messenger RNA therapeutics platform as a rapid and reliable way to make antibody-producing drugs to protect against a wide range of known and unknown emerging infectious diseases and engineered biological threats by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
The platform 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, as is the case with the vaccine approaches currently being tested. As a result, the platform has the potential to speed the development and manufacture of treatments that can produce a safer, more reliable and more robust immune response than existing technologies.
This grant could support research for up to five years to advance promising 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.
This grant is part of a DARPA program called ADEPT: PROTECT (Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics: Prophylactic Options to Environmental and Contagious). The goal is to develop platform technologies that can be deployed safely and rapidly to provide the U.S. population with near-immediate protection against emerging infectious diseases and engineered biological weapons, even in cases when the pathogen or infectious agent is unknown.