The Machine That Made the Vaccine
A year ago, none of us would believe that mRNA vaccines would be a household name. And yet here we are, at the end of 2020, counting the days towards a vaccine that could not just save lives but help bring us back into a world that feels “normal” again. In this special episode, airing the day the FDA authorized the vaccine for emergency use, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel tells the story of not just the vaccine’s development, but the machine that made the vaccine: the platform, the technology, and the moves behind the vaccine’s development. This episode of Bio Eats World takes us from a world of pipette and lab benches to a world of industrial robots making medicines: We used to grow our vaccines, now we can “print” them, getting them to patients faster and more efficiently than ever before. In conversation with a16z general partner Jorge Conde and Bio Eats World host Hanne Winarsky, Bancel describes the exact moment he realized they might actually be able to make a vaccine for Covid-19; what happened next to go from pathogen to design; how this new technology that uses mRNA works (in a chocolate mousse metaphor!), and what makes it different from “old” vaccines; and how to think about managing both innovation and speed in this world. Why is this such a fundamental shift in the world of drug development? And where will this technology go next?