Hi there! It’s been a while. Anyhow. New Year, maybe one with a few more entries.
So Corona. That’s still with us. I do think this time in lockdowns and with serious inhibitions has provided some valuable lessons, particularly for those of us fortunate enough to not have lost our jobs and therefore with time on our hands to contemplate our existence (rather than making sure we can put food on the table). We had time to consider what time means; what being apart from people we love means; had time to value the beauty and magic of the seemingly mundane again. We taught ourselves new skills, reconnected, learned to appreciate what we have and understood how little one needs to be happy. We also understood how valuable a fast internet connection, videogames and streaming video services are.
Anyhow. This post isn’t really about that. Rather, it is about a podcast I heard on a flight back from Madeira the other day. Yes people, lucky bastard that I am, I got to spend 2 weeks on Madeira over New Years. But this post isn’t about that either.
In the episode of the a16z podcast (that’s the podcast of the Venture Capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (named after founders Marc Andreessen / Ben Horowitz, you may have read one of their books) Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel explains how Moderna developed the vaccine that is now being rolled to the planet.
Let me give you the gist, but I do encourage you to listen to the whole thing:
- In December 2019 there was an article in WSJ about a new pathogen detected in China.
- Bancel talks a guy from Dr. Fauci’s team. He says it’s a virus but we don’t know which one yet.
- A few days later, they know it is a new sort of Coronavirus and that the Chinese will put the sequence of the virus online.
- On January 11, 2020 just that happens.
- The team at Moderna begins developing a vaccine and the guy working for Fauci and his team at NIH begin developing a vaccine in parallel.
- After 48 hours, they ARE DONE and compare notes and realize they have developed the exact same design for a vaccine.
Note the following which should already sort of amaze you:
- The 2 teams never saw the physical / biological version of the virus, only a digital one.
- Genomic sequencing technology allowed to understand the sequence of the virus in a matter of days.
- They were able to design a vaccine based on the digital version of the virus in a matter of FORTYEIGHT HOURS. They designed and locked down the entire chemical structure of a vaccine.
Now here is what completely blew my mind:
The vaccine that was approved by the FDA and the European health authorities and the vaccine that is now going into distribution…
…IS THE EXACT SAME VACCINE THAT THE 2 TEAMS DEVELOPED AFTER 48 HOURS OF SEEING THE DIGITAL SEQUENCE OF THE SARS-COV-2 VIRUS.
I don’t know about you, but isn’t that amazing?
I remember Yuval Harari writing about that humanity is unlikely to be killed off by a virus as in the race between a virus and science, science will always be faster. Now I understand what he meant.
You may ask why vaccines weren’t available earlier then? Well, you still have to go through testing and making sure it is safe, and you need patients for that and that just takes time.
In any case, it just left me in awe of where technology has gotten us.
Among all the gloom these days I found that to be a very uplifting note. And I will just leave you with that. Go and enjoy your day. 🙂