The Messenger, a new book has become an instant bestseller in the US as it tells the story behind Moderna’s Covid vaccine. Peter Loftus, the author says, Moderna was an obscure company, but due to government patronage, today Moderna’s stock market capitalization was $66.9 billion. Peter Loftus too has become a millionaire with the publication of this book. Along with Moderna, the book as well as the author have become a household name around the world.
Moderna, the Vaccine & the Business Gamble that Changed the World, a story Peter Loftus narrates, is the story of how an obscure little biotech startup took a huge leap to take on the Covid pandemic & became a household name around the world. Moderna CEO Stephane Bandel described it as taking a photocopy of an invaluable recipe book into the kitchen to do the job. Moderna considered itself a digital venture, an information medicine-based platform company, not a pharma company.
The Covid vaccine was Moderna’s first commercially available product, and within a span of a year, mRNA had been injected into hundreds of millions of arms around the world. Moderna owed much to the US Government, with which it had already collaborated on mRNA solutions. In late 2019, the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases under Anthony Fauci was working with Moderna on a “ stopwatch drill” for the Nipah virus: NIAID would help Moderna design the vaccine, Moderna would make it & NIAID would do a clinical trial. This drill had been underway when Bandel, vacationing in France, had the insight that this mysterious virus from Wuhan could become a far bigger outbreak.
This swerve to address Covid was risky but the rewards were historic. The US became the real- time large-scale proving ground for a technology the federal government had helped birth. Under Operation Warp Speed, Moderna got billions of taxpayer dollars to help the company scale up its manufacturing network, and race through its three phases of clinical trials. As per the book, merely 280 days after the genetic sequencing for Covid was posted online, drug trials were over, and a vaccine was only a couple of months away. In nine months, Moderna & NIAID achieved what usually takes ten to fifteen years.