In CureVac's failure, a possible verdict on the past (and future) of mRNA vaccines
When three companies emerged in the winter of 2020 promising that a fancy new technology called mRNA could pull the world out of a deadly pandemic, it was easy to overlook the fact that not all mRNA is created equal.
In fact, by the time Covid-19 broke out, the once insular world of mRNA research had split into two rival camps. CureVac, the world’s oldest mRNA company, used the RNA from textbook biology. Four bases or “letters,” spelling out the instructions to make every possible protein. A, U, G, C. But Moderna and BioNTech tinkered with their RNA. If you zoomed into an atomic level, it looked like someone took out one of the letters, flipped half of it on its head and put it back next to the other three, like a famous painting hung upside down on a museum wall.
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