Inside the lab at Moderna.
The biotech Moderna developed a potential coronavirus vaccine in record time, zooming past Big Pharma competitors.
Stephane Bancel, the company’s CEO, sat down with Business Insider to discuss the technology platform that drove its speed and how the company hopes to pioneer a new way of developing vaccines.
“The speed is one dimension, but the piece that excites me the most about this technology is we can do vaccines that cannot be done using traditional technology,” Bancel said in an interview.
In July, researchers published results from testing Moderna’s experimental vaccine in 45 people. The study showed the vaccine generates an immune response that could protect people from the coronavirus, but more research is needed.
Now, Moderna is gearing up to test the vaccine in a 30,000-person study that’s scheduled to start in July.
Here’s the inside story of how Moderna went from waiting for the virus to be sequenced to shipping a vaccine in 42 days, available exclusively to BI Prime subscribers.
NORWOOD, Massachusetts — Stephane Bancel was vacationing in the south of France with his family when he first read about the virus.
It was early January when the biotech executive saw a Wall Street Journal article describing a “mystery virus outbreak” in central China. He sent an email about the story to Dr. Barney Graham, the deputy director of the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institutes of Health.
Graham said the agency didn’t know what the virus was yet. A few days later it did: a novel coronavirus. Bancel asked the NIH leader to let him know when they had the virus’ genetic sequence. His company, Moderna, was ready to get to work.
As the virus spread in January and February, about 100 employees at Moderna, about one-tenth of the company’s workforce, worked around-the-clock to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The stakes couldn’t be higher: the virus has proliferated around the globe, shuttering economies and killing 265,000 people.
Moderna shipped the first batches of a vaccine to the NIH on February 24, just 42 days after it received the virus’ genetic sequence. It will take at least 12 to 18 months to know if Moderna’s vaccine — or any others — is safe and effective, though Moderna is working to compress that timeline as much as it can. The company has said the vaccine could be ready for emergency use by this fall.
In July, researchers published the first results from testing the vaccine in people. A small study of 45 healthy volunteers, focused on evaluating the safety of the vaccine, found that the vaccine generated an immune response in all of the participants. Now, Moderna is planning to start a 30,000-person trial to find out if the vaccine works to prevent the coronavirus.
The journey shows how, under the brightest possible spotlight, Moderna is challenging the lengthy and costly process of vaccine development. The company has never before brought a vaccine to market, and a victory would help establish its technology as a new medical innovation and save lives.
This article was published in March and has been updated. Lydia Ramsey contributed reporting.
Read the original article on Business Insider