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Behind why Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine could be ‘engineered’ with record time: Just 2 days

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate was found to be 94.5% effective in preventing coronavirus in clinical trials, according to a report released by the company last week.

The development of this vaccine was also unprecedentedly fast. The test vaccine was also much more effective than expected. The US Food and Drug Administration said it is likely to approve a vaccine that is at least 50% effective, while Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House COVID-19 response team. COVID-19 pandemic response in the United States – said he expected the figure to be 70%.

But, perhaps even more remarkable is that Moderna designed its vaccine for just 2 days back in January, before some people hadn’t even heard of coronavirus. The “design” here is that it will “teach” the immune system how to fight certain viruses. That is done based on Moderna’s key technology, called “Messenger RNA” (mRNA).

Messenger RNA is the genetic material that makes proteins in cells. So Moderna’s coronavirus candidate for vaccine works by injecting a small piece of mRNA from the coronavirus. It essentially mimics a natural COVID-19 infection, fooling the body into producing antibodies in the hope that they will protect against future infection.

Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which the company says is 95 percent effective, was also developed based on mRNA.

An infographic shows how mRNA vaccines were developed.

The use of mRNA vaccine technology means that Pfizer and Moderna only need the coronavirus genetic sequence to make the vaccine, and that no live viruses need to be cultured and grown in the laboratory. That is why these companies are able to achieve tremendous progress in record time. By contrast, for most traditional vaccine platforms, this process can take many years.

“What you can do is turn it into a whole new way of making drugs, vaccines … almost anything”, Bob Langer, one of the founders of Moderna, says.

Behind why Moderna s COVID 19 vaccine could be engineered with record time Just 2 days | Live

The chart shows the times when vaccines were developed in the past.

The FDA has never approved a vaccine or mRNA-based treatment before. So for many people Moderna’s bet looks risky. But it seems set to be successful. Moderna said it would soon ask the FDA to allow the COVID-19 vaccine in emergencies, and Pfizer has also filed an application.

If the FDA gives the injections a green light, the mRNA vaccine is poised to set a new industry standard.

How Moderna surpassed the coronavirus

On January 6, Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel emailed Barney Graham, a vaccine researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Bancel is troubled by a mysterious virus outbreak in Wuhan, China. He then talked to Graham about developing a vaccine for the virus.

Moderna has been working with NIH since 2017 on vaccines and has yet to get vaccines approved. Graham agrees.

On January 11, researchers from China announced the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus. Two days later, Moderna’s team and the NIH scientists perfected the target gene sequence it would use in its vaccines.

“This is not a complicated virus”, he said in an interview with the New York Times.

On February 24, Moderna shipped its first batch of vaccine to scientists at the NIH center in Bethesda, Maryland. The researchers gave the first dose on March 16 in Seattle, Washington. This is also the starting point of the first clinical trials for coronavirus vaccine.

Behind why Moderna s COVID 19 vaccine could be engineered with record time Just 2 days | Live

Nurse Kath Olmstead injected volunteer Melissa Harting as part of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, July 27, 2020.

Moderna’s speed may leave some wondering if the company is sacrificing scrutiny and carefulness in exchange for speed. But according to Albert Rizzo, medical director of the American Lung Association, the answer is no.

“We’re not skipping steps – we really have better technology”Rizzo said. “Why did it take two weeks to cross the Atlantic in the 1800s? Well, we had to take a boat. Whereas now, you can cross the ocean in just a few hours.”

Advantages and disadvantages of the mRNA vaccine

For decades, vaccines contain a dead or weakened version of the virus. Later, early advances in genetics allowed vaccines to use proteins made by viruses. That method was first used in the 1980s to develop a vaccine against hepatitis B.

Companies like Novavax are relying on protein-based models to create their coronavirus vaccine candidates. But Moderna’s business has been around mRNA since it started in 2010.

Behind why Moderna s COVID 19 vaccine could be engineered with record time Just 2 days | Live

Illustration of a seed coronavirus. Red are mutant proteins.

Therefore, vaccines from mRNA technology offer a big advantage: speed. Since they are produced in vitro rather than being cultured using cells, they are produced more quickly.

But this vaccine also has limitations. First, they require people to have two injections. Pfizer is offering two injections three weeks apart, while Moderna’s test participants get two injections four weeks apart.

Vaccines are also difficult to transport and store. Pfizer vaccines need to be shipped at -94 degrees Fahrenheit, require dry ice and special freezers. Moderna’s type requires -4 degrees Fahrenheit, a bit colder than the average freezer temperature.

Currently, the Moderna’s market value has grown by more than 400% since January, to more than $ 40 billion.

Refer BI

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