How the biotech upstart Moderna exploded into one of the most important startups of all time, creating a highly effective coronavirus vaccine

In its short corporate history, Moderna has grown accustomed to breaking records.

A $450 million funding round in 2015 was a record for the biotech industry. Moderna raised even more the next year. And its 2018 initial public offering was the largest-ever for a biotech, raking in $564 million at a valuation exceeding $8 billion.

Then, this year, the coronavirus struck. Moderna lapped the drug industry in speedily crafting a coronavirus vaccine candidate, zooming past competitors that dwarf the company in size and resources. Moderna's experimental serum was the first to begin human testing in mid-March.

The drug-industry giant Pfizer has since caught up to Moderna, and was the first to share results showing that its experimental vaccine works to prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Moderna announced the success of its shot, which is easier to transport and store, a week after Pfizer. At first, supplies will be very limited, and there's likely to be enough demand for both shots if they're approved by regulators.

The hopes of a coronavirus vaccine that can halt the pandemic has swelled Moderna's valuation to almost $40 billion. If the company's shot is approved, it would be Moderna's first therapeutic to reach the market.

And it would be a major validation for the unproven technology Moderna used to create the shot, known as messenger RNA. Moderna's future rests on the success or failure of this platform, which the company has been working on for a decade.

In exclusive interviews, Business Insider talked to CEO Stephane Bancel, cofounders Noubar Afeyan and Robert Langer, and more, about the founding of Moderna and how the company reached this pivotal moment.

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The untold story of Moderna's founding and how the biotech grew into one of the most consequential startups of all time as it races to develop a coronavirus vaccine

This article was published in May, and has been updated with more information on Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.

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