“ As he pursued a complex and risky strategy for drug development, Bancel built a culture of recrimination at Moderna, former employees said. Failed experiments have been met with reprimands and even on-the-spot firings. They recalled abusive emails, dressings down at company meetings, exceedingly long hours, and unexplained terminations.
At least a dozen highly placed executives have quit in the past four years, including heads of finance, technology, manufacturing, and science. In just the past 12 months, respected leaders of Moderna’s cancer and rare disease programs both resigned, even though the company’s remarkable fundraising had put ample resources at their disposal. Each had been at the company less than 18 months, and the positions have yet to be filled.
Lower-ranking employees, meanwhile, said they’ve been disappointed and confused by Moderna’s pivot to less ambitious — and less transformative — treatments. Moderna has pushed off projects meant to upend the drug industry to focus first on the less daunting (and most likely, far less lucrative) field of vaccines — though it is years behind competitors in that arena.