Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was found to be 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials, the company announced last week.
The vaccine’s development process was unprecedentedly fast — only the team of Pfizer and BioNTech beat the biotech newcomer in announcing results from a late-stage clinical trial.
The experimental vaccine was also far more effective than expected: The Food and Drug Administration had said it would likely approve a vaccine that showed at least 50% efficacy, and Dr. Anthony Fauci had said he hoped for 70%. (AstraZeneca found its coronavirus vaccine candidate to be 70% effective on average, while Pfizer-BioNTech reported their shot is 95% effective.)
But perhaps more remarkable is that Moderna designed its vaccine in just two days in January, before some people had even heard of the coronavirus.
That wouldn’t have been possible without the technology Moderna has bet on since its founding: messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines.
Messenger RNA is genetic material that tells cells how to make proteins. So Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate works by injecting a small piece of mRNA from the coronavirus that codes for the virus’ spike protein. This protein helps the coronavirus attach to and invade cells, and it’s what antibodies target and neutralize. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine spurs the body to produce the spike protein internally. That, in turn, triggers an immune response. – READ MORE
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