MIT professor's Moderna stake on brink of topping US$1b on coronavirus vaccine early results

Moderna priced a stock offering to fund manufacturing of its coronavirus vaccine at US$76 a share.
Moderna priced a stock offering to fund manufacturing of its coronavirus vaccine at US$76 a share.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Another early investor of Moderna Inc is on the cusp of owning a stake worth at least US$1 billion after the biotech firm reported encouraging early trial results for an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

The value of board member Bob Langer's 3.2 per cent holding, including stock options, rose to US$934.3 million on Monday (May 18), as the shares surged 20 per cent to a record US$80 each. Langer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would be at least the third individual with Moderna holdings topping US$1 billion, joining chief executive officer Stephane Bancel and Harvard University professor Timothy Springer.

Moderna, whose shares have more than quadrupled this year, released interim data from a small phase 1 trial showing positive early signs that the vaccine can create an immune system response to the virus in humans. The news helped fuel a broader surge in stocks, with the S&P 500 Index advancing 3.2 per cent, the most since April 8.

The company priced a stock offering to fund manufacturing of its coronavirus vaccine at US$76 a share, 5 per cent below the last close, people familiar with the deal said after Monday's market trading.

Langer, 71, has licensed or sub-licensed patents to more than 400 biotech, pharmaceutical, chemical and medical companies, according to his biography at MIT's Langer Lab.

Bancel and Springer own stakes worth US$2.45 billion and US$1.38 billion, respectively, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. The biggest beneficiary of the stock surge is top shareholder Flagship Pioneering, a firm started by Moderna co-founder Noubar Afeyan. Flagship distributed 10 million shares to investors last week, leaving it with an 11 per cent stake worth US$3.27 billion. Afeyan declined to elaborate when asked about how much of the stock he owns individually.

"The broader market reaction is a measure of the need people have to perceive that there's a scientific, technological solution to this kind of battle," Afeyan said in a phone interview. "We've increased expectations, but that hasn't changed what we do."

'WARP SPEED'

Bancel and other Moderna executives, including outgoing chief financial officer Lorence Kim and President Stephen Hoge, have been selling shares, some through prearranged trading plans. Bancel has sold about 200,000 shares since Feb. 21, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

 
 
 

Moncef Slaoui, who owned 82,508 shares as of Feb 21, stepped down from Moderna's board last week and plans to divest his stake to help lead "Operation Warp Speed," a Trump administration effort involving the private and public sectors to accelerate the development of a vaccine, the company said in an emailed statement.

Slaoui intends to donate the incremental value accrued from his Moderna stake since the May 14 close to cancer research, Caitlin Oakley, a spokeswoman for the US Department of Health & Human Services, wrote in an email.

Other major shareholders include AstraZeneca and Theleme Partners, the hedge fund of Patrick Degorce, a former partner of the Children's Investment Fund.