Having just signed a $125 million rare diseases deal with Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Moderna Therapeutics is investing some of that cash into setting up a new cancer venture.

The new company will be called Onkaido Therapeutics and will develop messenger RNA-based oncology treatments. Moderna is putting in $20 million to kickstart the venture which will focus initially on 15 preclinical cancer drug candidates in the areas of apoptosis, central regulatory nodes and immunotherapy.

Moderna says that several of these candidates are already under evaluation in in vivo disease models. Establishing Onkaido as a standalone unit will accelerate the development of mRNA therapeutics for oncology, it adds.

Stephen Hoge, head of corporate development at Moderna, is taking on the added role of chief executive. He said that “basic research in the past decade has uncovered innumerable targets in cancer, but our ability to reach them therapeutically remains limited”. However, using "this new modality" will help the new firm "do things that have never been done before in the fight against cancer".

Earlier this week, Alexion said it was paying $100 million upfront to purchase ten product options to Moderna's mRNA therapeutics platform. It is also making a $25 million equity investment.