Moderna’s Quick Response
Even before the coronavirus had been given a name, the Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech company Moderna had taken note. On January 11th, the second COVID-19’s genomic sequence was released, the company worked around the clock to deliver a design for a new vaccine in only 48 hours. Just over one month later, Moderna sent its vaccine candidate to National Institutes of Health. The entire process has moved at record speed, with the first human trials having begun in early March.
Moderna has blown competitors out of the water when it comes to their efficiency in getting this drug through design and manufacturing. Most vaccines take years to develop, but given the nature of this pandemic, CEO Stéphane Bancel says there was no time to spare.
Turnaround Year For Moderna
Moderna is a relatively young company, having been founded in 2010. It does not yet have any drugs on the market, although it does have a couple dozen in development. Until very recently, Moderna, a play on mRNA which the company specializes in, was not a household name.
Last year, in spite of being fairly highly valued, the company operated at a huge loss having no products on to sell. Moderna’s market capitalization was an impressive $17.5 billion while its reported losses reached $514 million on $60 million in revenue.
Moderna’s performance during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated great value to investors. Its stock price has skyrocketed, going from a high of $19.81 on January 2nd, to a high of 59.88 May 8th. This quarter has also made a billionaire of its CEO.
Cooperation Between Moderna and the Federal Government
The biotech company has worked with the government before on a vaccine for Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Now they are working closely with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease to fast-track their COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. government has announced it will be giving Moderna $500 million to fund their vaccine development. Also, the FDA has given Moderna and BioNTech the go-ahead to start human trials before animal testing is finished. Given the severity of the COVID-19 situation, the shortened trials are a necessary risk.
What are the benefits of mRNA Vaccines?
One of the most important aspects of mRNA vaccines is that they take far less time to develop than traditional vaccines. Secondly, the type of vaccines we usually see aren’t 100% effective. For example, it’s quite common for someone who got a flu shot to still manage to catch the flu. Most vaccines aim for herd immunity rather than 100% protection from the targeted illness.
Third, there is no chance for you to get COVID-19 from a mRNA vaccine that targets the virus. Traditional vaccines work by introducing your body to weakened or dormant versions of the targeted virus. mRNA vaccines instead inject a piece of genetic code into the body that then prompts your own cells to produce certain parts of the virus, which in turn triggers your body’s immune system.
With this method, there is no foreign virus being put into the body, therefore, there is no chance that the vaccine could actually make you sick. The risk of this happening with a traditional vaccine is very low, however it’s possible and with a virus as aggressive as the novel coronavirus, health officials would rather not take the chance.