The inside story of how the $10 billion biotech Moderna developed a potential coronavirus vaccine in record time

Moderna biotech lab laboratory pharma


Inside the lab at Moderna.

  • The $10 billion 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.
  • The potential coronavirus vaccine will still require at least 12 to 18 months of testing in humans to determine if it's safe and works to prevent the virus, according to a top US health official.
  • 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.

In the weeks since, the virus has spread across the globe, weighed on financial markets, and killed more than 3,300 people. In that same period, about 100 employees at Moderna, about one-tenth of the company's workforce, worked around-the-clock to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

The biotech 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.

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.

Click here to read the full inside story of how Moderna developed a potential coronavirus vaccine in record time. The article is available exclusively to BI Prime subscribers.

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