America’s big bet on company that promised vaccine within ‘weeks to months’ despite having no track record – because the CEO told Trump he could deliver a faster turnaround than everyone else at White House meeting
- Moderna Inc has been given $483million in government funding for its trial
- Its CEO Stephane Belane dazzled Trump in March by claiming the company could get its vaccine into phase two of a trial in ‘months’
- Moderna Inc was founded in 2010 and has never brought a single vaccine to market
- It has however received more funding than any other pharmaceutical giant from the US government in order to speed up vaccine development
- There is a global race for a vaccine and the US is eager to win
- Some health experts have cautioned that rushing it could lead to an unreliable or unsafe one
- Dr. Fauci said on Thursday that hundreds of millions of doses would be ready in January
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The government is betting on a biotech company to come up with a coronavirus vaccine in ‘weeks’ or ‘months’ after its CEO undercut others at a round-table with President Trump and caught his attention by promising to deliver doses in an unprecedented time scale.
Moderna Inc has been greenlit by the FDA to conduct a trial of its vaccine. The company has received $483million in funding from the government to carry it out.
It came after CEO Stephane Bancel stole President Trump’s attention during an early March meeting with other biotech executives.
He promised to deliver a vaccine in the shortest time of anyone there, which caught the attention of the president, whose eagerness to overcome the pandemic and restart the economy at all costs has been well-documented and criticized by health experts.
Moderna Inc has never brought a vaccine to market before, nor has it completed trials for any, according to an investigation by CNN.
Stephane Bancel is shown pitching to President Trump Moderna Inc’s vaccine during a meeting at the White House on March 2
But at the round-table in early March, Bancel told the president he had already started working with the National Institute of Health.
Moderna Inc CEO Stephane Bancel
‘[We are] very proud to be working with the US government and to have already sent, in only 42 days from the sequence of the virus, our vaccine to Dr. Fauci’s team at the NIH,’ he said, adding that he would be able to start phase two of the trial in ‘just a few months’.
Trump replied: ‘So you’re talking over the next few months, you think you could have a vaccine?’
Bancel replied: ‘Correct. Correct. With phase two.’
Dr. Fauci then clarified to the president: ‘You won’t have a vaccine. You’ll have a vaccine to go into testing.’
The company was developing a vaccine for MERS when the COVID-19 pandemic exploded. It then set to work on the COVID-19 vaccine.
Janssen Research & Development, which is part of Johnson & Johnson, has also received $456 million to develop a vaccine and Sanofi has received up to $30 million.
But Moderna Inc has received the largest slice of funding, making it the front-runner.
Dr. Joseph Bolen, who was the company’s chief medical officer between 2013 and 2015, said he was baffled by the government’s enthusiasm for the product.
‘I don’t know what their thinking was. Why so much? … I just don’t know. When I read that, I was pretty amazed,’ he said.
Moderna was founded in 2010 but has never brought a vaccine to market
Dr. Tal Zaks, the current chief medical officer, said the company had lots to offer.
‘We’re a young company with an emerging technology and for that reason we have not yet brought anything to full licensure.
‘But if you look at the building blocks of what we have been able to demonstrate over time — from preclinical through our early clinical data — this is a very promising technology,’ he said.
There is a global race to develop a vaccine.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said earlier this week that the US had to ‘win’ the race and that it could not rely on other countries to get there first.
Health experts have been trying to urge caution and say rushing to produce a vaccine could result in one that is unreliable or even unsafe.
Dr. Fauci said on Thursday that the country could expect to see hundreds of millions of doses as soon as January.
He had been advising that it would take between 12 and 18 months to produce a vaccine.