Early investors key to Moderna’s successful vaccine, says multi-billionaire co-founder

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The billionaire co-founder of vaccine maker Moderna says that early investors in the biotech startup should share the credit for the development of the company’s coronavirus vaccine.

Professor Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT and serial entrepreneur, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age the pandemic had shown the true dividends from backing an early stage company.

Dr Robert Langer, biotech entrepreneur and co-founder of COVID-19 maker Moderna. 

Dr Robert Langer, biotech entrepreneur and co-founder of COVID-19 maker Moderna. Credit:Jason Alden

“I feel we are incredibly fortunate that companies like Moderna and BioNtech existed [when the pandemic started]. If those companies weren’t here I can only imagine where we’d be,” he said.

“I give the investors a lot of credit – that was key. A lot of people say the United States [funding] was responsible for a lot of things Moderna did, but really, the investors, they put the money in way before.”

Dr Langer, who is estimated by Forbes to have a net worth of $US4 billion ($5.5 billion), will be a keynote speaker at the 2021 Sohn Hearts and Minds virtual conference in December. He will address investors who are hungry for advice on life sciences stocks as the sector booms after a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic.

Other investing legends including Berkshire Hathaway’s Charlie Munger will also share insights with attendees, with all profits going to medical research.

Dr Langer is no stranger to launching successful biotechs. He holds about 800 issued and pending patents and has been involved in the founding of several well-known businesses – the most well known outside of Moderna being cosmetics imprint Living Proof with Jennifer Aniston, which was eventually acquired by Unilever.

He acknowledges the life of a research scientist is not always pleasant, however, and a business needs much more than great science to succeed on the global stage. Beyond scientific potential companies need intellectual property rights, a cutting-edge platform that can be used for more than one treatment, and access to strong business minds.

“To make a great company you need all of them,” Dr Langer said.

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