Moderna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company, had prior knowledge of the potential health risks associated with its experimental mRNA vaccine technology even before the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in 2020. In 2017, a report by STAT highlighted the challenges Moderna faced while developing an mRNA vaccine for Crigler-Najjar, a rare genetic disorder.
In order to protect mRNA molecules from the body’s natural defenses, drug developers must wrap them in a protective casing. For Moderna, that meant putting its Crigler-Najjar therapy in nanoparticles made of lipids. And for its chemists, those nanoparticles created a daunting challenge: Dose too little, and you don’t get enough enzyme to affect the disease; dose too much, and the drug is too toxic for patients.
From the start, Moderna’s scientists knew that using mRNA to spur protein production would be a tough task, so they scoured the medical literature for diseases that might be treated with just small amounts of additional protein.
“And that list of diseases is very, very short,” said the former employee who described Bancel as needing a Hail Mary.
Crigler-Najjar was the lowest-hanging fruit.
Yet Moderna could not make its therapy work, former employees and collaborators said. The safe dose was too weak, and repeat injections of a dose strong enough to be effective had troubling effects on the liver in animal studies.
Despite the uncertainties surrounding the mRNA technology’s effectiveness and the company’s economic challenges, Moderna’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, expressed unwavering confidence, foreseeing a pivotal moment for the company’s success.
Fast-forward to the COVID-19 era, Moderna capitalized on its mRNA technology and generated substantial profits by distributing its COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. The vaccine received emergency use authorization from the CDC, bypassing the standard clinical trial process. However, as expected with any new medical intervention, the mRNA vaccine led to severe adverse reactions in some individuals. In response to safety concerns, Japan and other countries temporarily suspended the vaccine’s administration to children. Consequently, Moderna had to discard over 30 million doses of its experimental shots in the previous year.
It is worth noting that a peculiar discovery was made regarding Moderna’s patented DNA sequence and the genetic makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19. Researchers from various countries published a study in Frontiers in Virology in 2022, revealing that the SARS-CoV-2 furin cleavage site (FCS) contained a genetic code segment identical to a part of a gene patented by Moderna in 2016. This finding posed a challenge for Bancel, who struggled to provide a satisfactory explanation for the anomaly.
These developments shed light on Moderna’s journey with mRNA technology, its COVID-19 vaccine, and the questions surrounding its safety and genetic similarities. The situation raises important considerations regarding the rigorous evaluation and monitoring of novel medical interventions to ensure the well-being of individuals receiving them.
The evidence of a small segment of Moderna’s patented DNA sequence being found in the genetic makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus does raise questions and may lead some to speculate about a potential link between the two. However, it is important to approach such claims with caution and rely on scientific investigations and expert analysis for a comprehensive understanding.
While the discovery of this genetic similarity is intriguing, it does not necessarily imply a direct connection between Moderna’s DNA sequence and the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There are several factors to consider. Firstly, Moderna’s patented sequence could have been used for research purposes or included in databases accessible to scientists studying viral genomes. In such cases, the presence of the sequence in the SARS-CoV-2 virus may be coincidental rather than indicating a direct link.
Moreover, viruses can naturally acquire genetic material from various sources through a process known as recombination. It is plausible that the small segment of DNA from Moderna’s patent found its way into the SARS-CoV-2 virus genome through recombination with other related viruses or genetic material from other sources.
To establish a definitive link between Moderna’s DNA sequence and the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, extensive scientific investigation and analysis would be necessary. This would involve studying the genetic evolution and relatedness of different virus strains, conducting further genetic sequencing, and considering other factors such as geographical and temporal patterns of viral spread.
It is crucial to rely on peer-reviewed research, scientific consensus, and expert opinions to obtain accurate and reliable information on the origin and characteristics of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Ongoing studies and investigations by the scientific community are continuously expanding our understanding of this complex topic.