CEO Of Moderna ‘Confident’ That Covid-19 Vaccine Will Be Ready By 2021

Stephane Bancel, claims his company has a new vaccine that has a 1-in-3 chance of getting FDA approval by 2021.

Embed from Getty Images

The CEO of pharmaceutical company Moderna, Stephane Bancel, claims to have a new vaccine that has a 1-in-3 chance of getting FDA approval by 2021. Bancel personally thinks that the vaccine has an 80% chance at being the cure for the Covid-19 virus that has been deeply impacting the entire world for the past few months. 

“We know our platform, It [the vaccine] works on MERS, Zika and CMV and so on. When you have the right sequence … you will get neutralizing antibodies,” Bancel stated in a recent interview. The vaccine itself has just begun human trials on patients currently suffering from Covid-19.

Back in May, Moderna went public with their initial breakthroughs for this vaccine, and at the time they were already able to show how it neutralized antibodies in early human studies; so far the vaccine has helped cure eight people. Eight individuals is not a lot in the grand scheme of a successful coronavirus vaccine, however, Moderna is confident in the road that they’ve taken and has already announced plans to begin a 30,000-person trial for the vaccine starting in July. So far the company has recruited 600 Americans to participate in the trial, as they’re planning on beginning it in the US based on how heavily impacted we’ve been by the virus. 

In their initial mice trial results, Moderna claimed that the mice had a reaction to the vaccine that showed “promising signs of efficacy,” based on how well past vaccines that have been approved by the FDA have done when injected into mice.

“The Phase 1 data demonstrates that vaccination with mRNA-1273 elicits an immune response. This data substantiates our belief that mRNA-1273 has the potential to prevent COVID-19 disease,” said Dr. Tal Zaks. 

mRNA in general is what Moderna is known for using in their drug therapies, and is also the reason the company is compared to other pharmaceutical giants such as Johnson & Johnson, according to Bancel. Using messenger RNA is an easy way to deliver genetic instructions to the body’s cells so that they know what proteins to make. 

For the Covid-19 vaccine specifically, referred to by Moderna as mRNA-1273, the genetic instructions within the vaccine are encoded with the same spike proteins as the coronavirus. Once the body’s cells “read” these instructions and understand how to recreate the Covid-19 protein, the immune system will then hopefully respond by destroying the forign protein once produced, and therefore, will continue to destroy any proteins that enter the body looking similar to the one created from the vaccine. 

Basically, it’s the same way that the flu shot works. The flu vaccine injects your body with a small amount of the flu virus so that your immune system knows how to attack and get rid of it, should you actually get the flu. The difference with Moderna’s vaccine is that instead of injecting a little bit of the coronavirus into the patient’s body, they’re injecting the messenger RNA that can tell the body how to produce a part of the virus’ protein itself. 

Embed from Getty Images

“It works on MERS, Zika and CMV and so on. This is the tenth vaccine Moderna has brought into human clinical trials and it’s the company’s most advanced.”

Embed from Getty Images

Moderna’s previous work on MERS, a virus that is in the same coronavirus family as Covid-19, is claimed to be the foundation that enabled the company to create the mRNA-1273 vaccine. One of the reasons this company has remained so successful is also because they have their own manufacturing plant that is “fully digitized” according to Bancel. 

This means that a majority of the workers at this plant are machines and factory robots as a means of avoiding human error. “We make our critical raw material. We make the mRNA; we formulate it in the lipids. If we had had contract manufacturers, we might still be in a pre-clinical vaccine phase as we speak,” Bancel explained. Bancel also credits his company’s success to their past outreach efforts to major healthcare providers, such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, as many of them still work closely with Moderna. Fauci and Moderna actually developed the MERS base for the Covid-19 vaccine together. 

The fact that the mRNA-1273 vaccine is entering a phase 3 human trial is astounding considering the fact that it was initially developed just 6 months ago. While this may be a risk for the company business wise, based on how much money goes into human trials, Bancel claims that the urgency of the pandemic trumps any financial risk. He’s also confident in the vaccine, claiming that he predicts an 80%-90% probability of success to the likelihood of the vaccine being effective in more than half of the individuals that will participate in the trial. 

For now, we must continue to abide by social distancing/quarantine guidelines and hope that Moderna, or one of the hundreds of other potential vaccines being created right now, will reach a breakthrough soon.