The Triumph of Biotechnology and Private Capital

www.nationalreview.com
5 min read
fairly difficult
COVID vaccines are a triumph of the biotechnology industry and of the venture capitalists and wealthy angel investors who fund it.
Medical assistant Mariasha Davis draws the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe before people are inoculated at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, Ill., February 13, 2021. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters)

And how the Democrats' plans to boost capital-gains taxes may discourage future innovation.

We continue to fight COVID-19 and its variants, but the rapid development of vaccines last year put us on the offensive against the disease. Vaccines from Moderna of Massachusetts and BioNTech of Germany have led the way, with 360 million doses delivered in the United States to date. (BioNTech teamed with Pfizer for the manufacturing and distribution of its shot.)

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The federal government expedited drug approvals and helped to fund the vaccine roll-out. But how were Moderna and BioNTech able to design and deliver highly effective vaccines so quickly — in months, rather than the years it usually takes for vaccines?

The answer is that the two companies had been working on the mRNA technologies behind the vaccines for a decade, and they were supported by more than $3 billion of private capital. Moderna's and BioNTech's vaccines are a triumph of the biotechnology industry and of the venture capitalists and wealthy angel investors who fund it.

The large potential of mRNA technology now seems clear, but that was not always the case. Katalin Karikó at the University of Pennsylvania spent years studying mRNA, but she received little academic or government support. Fortunately, Karikó and her colleague Drew Weissman made a breakthrough in the early 2000s for practical applications of mRNA technologies.

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Derrick Rossi of Harvard Medical School added his own advances and then teamed with a group of scientists and venture-capital firm Flagship Pioneering to found Moderna in 2010. Moderna's "highly risky" plan was to "cut out the middleman in biotech [by] creating therapeutic proteins inside the body instead of in manufacturing…
Chris Edwards
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