In the richest upfront deal for early stage technology since the blockbuster Abbott-Reata partnership in 2011, AstraZeneca plc has provided Moderna Therapeutics Inc. with enough cash to mature the biotech's therapeutic mRNA technology and begin to develop its own clinical programs.

The pharma gets access to research programs in a new therapeutic modality that could address previously inaccessible targets, with potentially shorter development timelines and lower manufacturing costs than recombinant protein therapeutics.