The mRNA revolution is just beginning


Katalin Karikó, biochemist, started working with mRNA as early as 1989

The arrival of a vaccine before the close of the year was an unexpected turn of events. Early in the pandemic, the conventional wisdom was that, even with all the stops pulled, a vaccine would take at least a year and a half to develop. Talking heads often referenced that the previous fastest-ever vaccine developed, for mumps back in 1967, took four years. Modern vaccines often stretch out past a decade of development. BioNTech – and US-based Moderna, which announced similar results later the same week – shattered that conventional timeline.

Neither company was a household name before the pandemic. In fact, neither had ever had a single drug approved before. But both had long believed that their mRNA technology, which uses simple genetic instructions as a payload, could outpace traditional vaccines, which rely on the often-painstaking assembly of living viruses or their isolated parts. mRNA turned out to be a vanishingly rare thing in the world of science and medicine: a promising and potentially transformative technology that not only survived its first big test, but delivered beyond most people’s wildest expectations.

But its next step could be even bigger. The scope of mRNA vaccines always went beyond any one disease. Like moving from a vacuum tube to a microchip, the technology promises to perform the same task as traditional vaccines, but exponentially faster, and for a fraction of the cost. “You can have an idea in the morning, and a vaccine prototype by evening. The speed is amazing,” says Daniel Anderson, an mRNA therapy researcher at MIT…

I grabbed this article because it promised more detail about mRNA. I was already convinced; but, global geek journalism is my personal search engine and this looks useful.

Right here is where I have to stick in a disclaimer. I’m an old geezer, old geek, old-timey radical. So, several years ago – with no background whatsoever – I decided I had to manage my own retirement investment account. I couldn’t do worse than some of the folks with professional credentials who’d been screwing it up. I have to say this because one of my holdings is MRNA…Moderna. No details. No questions, please. I’m not here to tout my few successes. I just love the science.

RTFA. It’s a piece of history. I think we’ll live a measurable bit longer because of the work all these folks are doing.