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How Moderna developed a coronavirus vaccine candidate in ‘a few days’

July 7, 2020, 8:11 PM UTC

Biotech company Moderna Therapeutics has never had a treatment approved—but is a leading contender in the race for a coronavirus vaccine.

The 10-year-old biotech company was able to develop a vaccine candidate in “a few days” without bringing the virus into its labs, thanks to its mRNA therapeutics technology, enabling scientists to replicate the virus, said CEO Stéphane Bancel.

“The reason we could do a coronavirus vaccine…is it’s not our first vaccine, it’s our 10th,” said Bancel, pointing to the company’s work on treatments for everything from infectious diseases to cancer. Bancel joined Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf for a conversation during Fortune’s Brainstorm Health virtual conference on Tuesday.

Moderna’s mRNA therapeutics involves “drug candidates that harness messenger RNA, a type of RNA that can transform cells into drugmaking factories by instructing them on what kinds of biological materials, such as antibodies, to create,” as Fortune has reported.

Moderna has reportedly sparred with U.S. government officials who are backing the project as the company oversees its first large-scale human trial, Reuters reported Tuesday.

The company is still on track to proceed with Phase III this month, Bancel said. “The notion that we’d get to Phase III in six months is incredible,” he added. “This has never happened before.”

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