Ep. 44: The Virus and the Clock, with Moderna’s Tal Zaks

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Ep. 44: The Virus and the Clock, with Moderna’s Tal Zaks

Author(s)
Michael Milken
Michael Milken
Chairman, Milken Institute

Episode 44 : The Virus and the Clock, with Moderna’s Tal Zaks

Tal Zaks

Chief Medical Officer, Moderna

“In this fight, where we are today—this is May of 2020—there's a lot of other companies and a lot of other approaches that are trying to generate vaccines. I wish them all success, and we all need to be successful here. I have only two competitors in this race: the virus and the clock.”

If developing a COVID-19 vaccine were a race, Tal Zaks and Moderna Therapeutics won the first leg. It took them only 63 days from the time the virus was sequenced until they had a new vaccine in human clinical trials. So impressed was BARDA—the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority—that they awarded Moderna $483 million to begin producing the vaccine should it gain FDA approval.

Their vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) to ‘reprogram’ the kinds of proteins a cell expresses—a potential game-changer. “You can make a completely different kind of drug and a completely different kind of vaccine with it,” Zaks tells Mike. “And with that you can go after targets that traditional medicine has found really hard to target.”

Published May 15, 2020