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.

Pfizer, Moderna, skip White House vaccine summit

Pfizer and Moderna, the two pharmaceutical companies closest to gaining U.S. clearance for a Covid-19 vaccine, won’t attend a White House summit intended to build confidence in the shots.

With the Food and Drug Administration expected to decide on whether to allow the companies’ vaccines to be distributed in the coming days, there was worry that regulators and executives shouldn’t be seen rubbing elbows at the Tuesday meeting.

…The focus of the gathering shifted after Peter Marks, the head of the FDA center that reviews vaccines, volunteered to make a presentation…Since it would be would inappropriate to have vaccine company executives touting their shots while in the same room with their regulator, a decision was made not to include any drugmakers in the meeting, the official said on a call with reporters on Monday.

Predictably, Trump’s setup their “summit” to try to make it appear they had done something right in the fight against COVID-19. And fumbled the ball.

RTFA, though. Pfizer had already notified organizers they wouldn’t be attending. Something similar from Moderna. Both of these firms should be making announcements over the next week or two.

Transparency note: I own shares in Moderna in my retirement investment account.

Trump appoints former director of company researching vaccines to head Federal program to find vaccine! Huh? Wha?


Trump, Dr Moncef SlaouiAP Photo/Alex Brandon

The former pharma executive tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the federal government’s hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine has more than $10 million in stock options in one of the companies receiving federal funding.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, a Belgian-American, was this week named Chief Scientist for Trump’s “Operation Warp Speed,” which aims to develop a working vaccine as fast as possible.

In order to take up the position, Slaoui resigned his role on the board of directors for Moderna Inc….Slaoui has 155,438 stock options in Moderna. The stake is worth $10,366,000 at Moderna’s current share price, $66.69 at the time of publication…

After news of Slaoui’s holding was published, former presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren said that Slaoui “must divest immediately.”

I’ll second that emotion.

Moderna has been one of the leading candidates to win the COVID-19 vaccine derby for quite a spell. I have to admit my dinky retirement account had shares of MRNA for a while. If I had the insider connections that Slaoui has I probably never would have sold them. :-] But, then, that’s the kind of creepy stuff that fits Trump like a cheap suit.