Biotech Innovator Uses Cloud-Based Tools to Support New Drug Development
Moderna Therapeutics is a biotech company working to create new medicines through its revolutionary messenger RNA (mRNA) Therapeutics platform. It uses Microsoft Office 365 business productivity tools to build an agile, flexible, and collaborative ecosystem of Moderna teams and partners to accelerate innovation in mRNA research and development.
Founded in 2010, Moderna Therapeutics began as a company with a vision: create a new in vivo medicine using messenger RNA (mRNA) to teach human cells to create proteins that target diseased tissue. Placing eighth on the CNBC 2014 Disruptor 50 list, Moderna is poised to deliver a radical treatment modality that’s fast, scalable, and inexpensive.
“The beauty of using mRNA as a drug is the speed at which we can design a new mRNA therapeutic for a targeted protein,” says Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer at Moderna. “By replicating our basic methodology, we can scale quickly to target new diseases. Traditional drug development for pharmaceutical companies takes 10 years or more. And because the mRNA Therapeutic modality teaches the body how to make its own medicine, it’s inherently cost-effective.”
The Race to Save Lives
Fueled by the potential to unlock a new dimension of medical treatment for patients living with serious diseases, everything that happens at Moderna happens at “Moderna speed.” When the company chooses IT solutions, it looks for technology that enables the fast, agile, and collaborative scenarios that drive innovation and contribute to growth. That’s why Moderna uses Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based business productivity tools. “We’re innovating in the biotech space and we need to partner with innovators in the productivity space, which led us to Microsoft,” says Steven Frederick, Head of Enterprise IT at Moderna.
“We chose Office 365 because it supports what our fast-moving company needs to accomplish,” adds John Reynders, Chief Information Officer at Moderna. “We operate in a highly regulated environment and Microsoft has thought through privacy concerns and data security. Office 365 offers the right balance between flexibility and elasticity that allows us to scale quickly and collaborate globally, while giving us control of sensitive data around the world.”
Since it subscribed to Office 365 Enterprise E3 in 2013, Moderna has grown by a factor of four; opened two new facilities; forged partnerships with AstraZeneca and Alexion to develop new medicines in the areas of cardiology, oncology, and rare diseases, and founded its oncology-focused drug development subsidiary, Onkaido Therapeutics. Now it’s easy to add someone to the Moderna ecosystem using Office 365 ProPlus and Click-to-Run installation technology, enabling access to the latest version of Office on up to five PCs, Macs, and mobile devices per employee. “If we didn’t have a cloud-based approach powered by Office 365, we could never have moved this fast,” says Reynders.
Flexible Work Environments Improve Productivity
Everyone at Moderna uses Office 365 to improve their productivity and increase their contribution to the company, no matter where they are working or what device they are using. All employees are “heavy users” of Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, and Word, and they expect to access to their files anytime, anywhere.
“We do heavy-duty simulation and modeling in Excel, and we’d bottom-out the capabilities of other online solutions in less than a day,” says Reynders. “Using Office 365 ProPlus and OneDrive for Business generates mobility and productivity that’s light years ahead of working with Office files that are stuck on your office computer. Instead, we create documents on our laptops, iPads, or smartphones, and store them online so it’s easy to share critical insights. At Moderna, we can’t imagine working any other way.”
Scientists also use Microsoft Office Online for browser-based access to files stored in the cloud so they can edit documents simultaneously. “Office Online puts the flex in flexible!” says Reynders. “You don’t even need your computer. Using a browser, we share PowerPoint presentations, schedule meetings, and update documents. That level of agility helps us to work at Moderna speed.”
Collaboration Drives Innovation, Competitive Advantage
According to Bancel, collaboration is essential for innovation. Because working on the leading edge of science is fraught with unknowns, collaborating with many partners offsets the risk of traveling down the wrong path of inquiry.
“We have to make decisions about our product years before launch, without knowing what the regulatory, manufacturing, or competitive landscape will look like,” says Bancel. “So we are using Microsoft cloud tools to achieve that level of collaboration to optimize our products and beat the odds: In the drug development world, 90 percent of drugs fail.”
Moderna is building an ecosystem of strategic global partnerships using Office 365 to establish highly secure online collaboration with academic and business partners in less than a day. “We use SharePoint Online and integrate with Microsoft Azure to enable multifactor authentication,” says Reynders. “We can capitalize on a business opportunity with a new partner by setting up a secure SharePoint collaboration platform in just a few clicks. That’s not just collaboration, that’s a competitive advantage.”
Reliability Enables the Science
Office 365 functions as a reliable backdrop at Moderna that “enables the science” by allowing people to focus on their work. Scientists in the United States exchange ideas with colleagues in Europe and Asia through instant messages, or by escalating a phone call to an interactive video conference to share desktops and drawings. Instead of wasting time figuring out how to connect with colleagues, Moderna scientists spend their energy on exchanging ideas to come up with innovative new concepts.
”It doesn’t matter what you are doing, if communication and collaboration is not reliable, all the gears grind to a halt,” concludes Reynders. “Since moving to Office 365, we’re not worrying about the technology. Instead, we are focusing on enabling our vision to pioneer a new way to treat serious illness and make a difference in the world.”