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Moderna Legal Chief Plots Exit Amid Covid-19 Vaccine Race (1)

Oct. 29, 2020, 11:54 PMUpdated: Oct. 30, 2020, 2:17 PM

Moderna Inc., one of the leading biotechnology companies in the push to get a coronavirus vaccine, is preparing to part ways with its top lawyer, the company said Thursday.

Lori Henderson plans to retire next year, the Cambridge, Mass.-based company said in a securities filing. Moderna has recently hired several lawyers to bolster its in-house legal and public policy ranks as it moves ahead with a potential treatment for the virus that’s created a health care and economic crisis around the globe.

Henderson will remain with the company “well into 2021 to ensure a smooth transition” to the next general counsel as it “continues on the path toward commercialization,” Moderna said in a quarterly earnings statement. She joined Moderna in 2018, eight years after the company was founded.

Henderson didn’t respond to a request for comment about her pending retirement.

Moderna also disclosed Thursday that it’s received $1.1 billion in deposits for supplies of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine, for which the company has 30,000 patients in the final stage of a trial. The company has said it will not seek to enforce patents on its potential vaccine while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing.

French pharmaceutical billionaire Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO, in a statement thanked Henderson for her leadership and wished her well in retirement.

“She has been a great partner and champion of our people and our mission for patients,” Bancel said. He credited Henderson for her role in building out a legal team after the company went public in December 2018.

Goodwin Procter, where Henderson spent a half-dozen years as an associate before embarking on a 25-year career in the pharmaceutical industry, advised Moderna on its initial public offering. Goodwin also represented Moderna in May on a share sale that raised $1.3 billion to fund its vaccine development.

Henderson sold off nearly $2.3 million in Moderna stock in October, securities filings show. She currently owns $48,000 in Moderna stock, according to Bloomberg data.

In-House Expansion

Moderna is one of several pharmaceutical companies involved in Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership backed by the Trump administration as part of an effort to find a cure for Covid-19. The company’s efforts on that front have involved bolstered its in-house legal ranks.

Moderna in August inked a $1.5 million deal to supply 100 million doses of its experimental vaccine to the U.S. government. Moderna then hired a new senior vice president of government engagement in John Lepore, a lawyer and former longtime government affairs executive at GlaxoSmithKline PLC.

The company later brought on former Johnson & Johnson senior counsel Felipe Heiderich and senior counsel for intellectual property Mark Milstead. Moderna is also hiring for several other in-house roles, including senior vice president of litigation and counsel positions for commercial legal and IP.

Covid Hiring

Moderna isn’t the only drug company making in-house moves as it works on treatments for the coronavirus.

Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc., a San Diego-based biotechnology company that’s received hedge fund backing in its quest for a Covid-19 vaccine, hired a new legal chief in August. Aldevron LLC, a Fargo, N.D.-based drug developer, also picked up its first-ever legal chief that same month.

Infinity BiologiX LLC, which has received Food and Drug Administration approval for a Covid-19 saliva test, hired former Lowenstein Sandler partner and Celgene Corp. lawyer Mary Storella as general counsel in September. Gravity Diagnostics LLC, which has a deal to provide coronavirus tests in Kentucky, added Mary Talbott that same month as chief legal officer. Talbott is a former vice president of law at Macy’s Inc.

(Adds line on Moderna in-house legal openings in 12th paragraph. Story originally published Oct. 29.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

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