Moderna Announces Appointment of Dr. Michael Watson as President of Valera
Former Global Head of Vaccination Policy and Advocacy at Sanofi Pasteur Will Lead Moderna’s Infectious Disease-Focused Venture Company
CAMBRIDGE, Mass., April 4, 2016 — Moderna Therapeutics, a clinical stage pioneer in the development of messenger RNA (mRNA) Therapeutics™, announced today that Dr. Michael Watson, MB ChB, MRCP, AFPM, has been appointed President of Valera, one of Moderna’s four wholly owned venture companies. Valera is focused on the development and commercialization of mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics for the prevention and treatment of viral, bacterial and parasitic infectious diseases.
“We are thrilled to have Mike assume the helm of Valera, particularly at this critical inflection point for the company, as we continue to progress our clinical stage infectious disease pipeline,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer (CEO) of Moderna. “Mike brings deep experience and expertise in global vaccine development and availability. Under his leadership, we will implement the strategies necessary to support development and potential commercialization of our mRNA therapeutics, which could address serious infectious disease needs in the U.S. and globally.”
Dr. Watson is a trained physician in internal medicine and infectious disease, bringing a twenty-year career in vaccine work to his new role with Moderna. Previously, Dr. Watson was Global Head of Vaccination Policy and Advocacy at Sanofi Pasteur. He has also held positions including Head of R&D for Acambis, UK Medical Director of Aventis Pasteur MSD as well as Head of Clinical and Epidemiology for SPMSD in France. His broad experience developing and licensing vaccines for conditions from smallpox, to encephalitis, to influenza and more has involved collaboration with key organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) and other government and non-governmental organizations. He has served as Chair of the Vaccines Committee and the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Group of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, (IFPMA) and is a member of the Board of Vaccines Europe and a board member of The Foundation for Innovative New Vaccines, FIND.
“The potential for mRNA therapeutics to meaningfully address some of the world’s most pressing infectious disease concerns is truly exciting. With this technology, I believe we have the opportunity to address serious unmet needs in infectious disease at an industry-leading pace. Moderna’s technology, coupled with its goal to deliver transformative medicines to millions of patients, makes this an extraordinary opportunity,” said Dr. Watson. “I am eager and proud to join Valera and work with this outstanding team and Moderna’s esteemed infectious disease-focused partners.”
Across its ecosystem of wholly owned ventures and external partners, Moderna is advancing a pipeline of more than 90 discovery programs, which span a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas. In addition to infectious diseases, these currently include rare diseases, oncology, immuno-oncology and cardiovascular disease, among others.
In January, Moderna announced that a Phase I study was underway in Europe for mRNA 1440, an infectious disease vaccine in development for an undisclosed target and indication. Moderna also announced a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to advance the development of a novel, affordable combination of mRNA-based antibody therapeutics to help prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. The global health partnership may also include additional mRNA-based development projects for various infectious diseases. Moderna also has a license and collaboration agreement with Merck for the discovery and development of vaccines and passive immunity treatments against viral diseases using modified mRNA.
About Moderna Therapeutics
Moderna is a clinical stage pioneer of messenger RNA Therapeutics™, an entirely new in vivo drug technology that produces human proteins, antibodies and entirely novel protein constructs inside patient cells, which are in turn secreted or active intracellularly. This breakthrough platform addresses currently undruggable targets and offers a superior alternative to existing drug modalities for a wide range of diseases and conditions. Moderna is developing and plans to commercialize its innovative mRNA drugs through its own ventures and its strategic relationships with established pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Its current ventures are: Onkaido, focused on oncology, Valera, focused on infectious diseases, Elpidera, focused on rare diseases, and Caperna, focused on personalized cancer vaccines. Founded by Flagship VentureLabs™, Cambridge-based Moderna is privately held and currently has strategic agreements with AstraZeneca, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and Merck. To learn more, visit www.modernatx.com.