Tal Zaks (Moderna via YouTube)

For two decades, a new vac­cine tech­nol­o­gy has been slow­ly ap­proach­ing prime time. Now, can it stop a pan­dem­ic?

Two months be­fore the out­break, Mod­er­na CMO Tal Zaks trav­eled from Cam­bridge, MA to Wash­ing­ton DC to meet with An­tho­ny Fau­ci and the lead­ers of the Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health.

For two years, Mod­er­na had worked close­ly with NIH re­searchers to build a new kind of vac­cine for MERS, one of the dead­liest new virus­es to emerge in the 21st cen­tu­ry. The pro­gram was one test for a new tech­nol­o­gy de­signed to be faster, cheap­er and more pre­cise than the ways vac­cines had been made for over a cen­tu­ry. They had gath­ered ev­i­dence the tech­nol­o­gy could work in prin­ci­ple, and Fau­ci, the long­time head of the Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Al­ler­gy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases and a long­time ad­vo­cate for bet­ter epi­dem­ic pre­pared­ness, want­ed to see if it, along with a cou­ple of oth­er ap­proach­es, could work in a worst-case sce­nario: A pan­dem­ic.

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