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.

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.

Some plants talk to each other on the genetic level


“So, how do you feel about tendril sex?”

Whether or not plants hear and talk to us, they sure talk among themselves – some of them, at least. This has been established by scientific research in the past: plants communicate to each other via signals in the form of chemicals. Some species of plants, in fact, have sophisticated means of interacting with others of their kinds: while some can share genetic information, others send warning messages of possible insect attacks. The former form of communication entails parasitic plants attaching onto their hosts.

Dodder, which is a parasite, attaches onto the other plant known as Arabidopsis, stealing some of its nutrients in the process via an appendage. However, to have their meal of nutrients, Dodder has to first identify its host. It was previously thought that it uses chemicals to do so. Now, a new study has demonstrated that dodder uses a genetic method: it exchanges RNA with the plant. These two plants thereby ‘talk’ to each other as they exchange pieces of mRNA.

What do they say to each other then? Mystery, mystery. Perhaps, Dodder signals its host to ‘allow’ it to drain its nutrients by tricking it to lower its defenses?

The picture says it all.

Thanks, Mike