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Alexi Cohan: mRNA coronavirus vaccines were developed in record time. Don't be fearful of the speed

mRNA vaccine development will go down in history. Coronavirus vaccines using mRNA technology were developed and authorized for use in a record-setting 10 months, an accomplishment that will surely make up a chapter in the history books of the future, and while the speed may give some people pause, there's no need to worry.

It may seem like the vaccines were created at lightning speed — and they were — but mRNA technology has actually been in development for decades, like a diamond in the rough just waiting for its moment to shine.

Messenger ribonucleic acid, or mRNA, is a molecule in cells that carries codes from DNA to make proteins. An mRNA vaccine, such as the coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer, encode proteins of a virus, which is inserted into a cell to trigger an immune response and create antibodies.

The first report of the successful use of transcribed mRNA in animals was published in 1990 when reporter gene mRNAs were injected into mice and proteins were produced, as cited in a National Center for Biotechnology Information report.

In the following decades, "an improved understanding of the mRNA pharmacology, together with novel insights in immunology have positioned mRNA-based technologies as next-generation vaccines," wrote researchers in a 2019 edition of Nano Today Journal.

Just take a look at what Moderna says is its guiding premise: "If using mRNA as a medicine works for one disease, it should work for many diseases."

Moderna, founded in 2010, has a team of several hundred scientists and engineers solely focused on advancing the company's mRNA platform technology.

It's no wonder the company, which calls mRNA "the software of life," was well-poised to take on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Pfizer, Moderna and the U.S. government via Operation Warp Speed have also pumped significant funding into the development of mRNA coronavirus vaccines.

The Department of Health and Human Services gave billions to Moderna and Pfizer to support their vaccine candidates along with manufacturing and distribution costs.

Another factor that accelerated coronavirus vaccine clinical trials was the high rate of community spread which resulted in infections among trial participants as they moved through daily life amid the pandemic.

As Barry Bloom, professor and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health said, data is more important than time in clinical trials, and there was a lot of data to work with as case counts continued to climb during the time of the studies.

It can be nerve-wracking to know that the vaccines were developed so quickly, but it shouldn't be cause for fear, worry, or serve as a reason not to get vaccinated.

Scientists across the world have worked on mRNA technology for years, and although it has never been in the spotlight like it is now, the platform is sure to change vaccinology forever not to mention go down in history as a top miraculous medical achievement.

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Posted: January 18, 2021 Monday 06:13 PM