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Moderna has big plans for its mRNA technology

April 28, 2021, 10:31 AM UTC

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Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.

There were some fascinating discussions at Fortune’s 2021 virtual Brainstorm Health conference yesterday. One of the most interesting involved Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who talked about his company’s plans for a combined vaccine targeting both COVID-19 and the seasonal flu.

“In the same single shot, you get a high efficacy flu vaccine, the appropriate virus variant for that given year, and you walk into your your CVS or go to your [general practitioner], you get one dose and you’re all set for flu and for COVID,” Bancel told Fortune editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf.

The feat would be down to the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology that forms the basis of the COVID jabs from Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer. Bancel described the approach as programming the body with the software that is mRNA—the way he tells it, combining the two vaccines is really just a matter of coding.

Not hard to see why some are talking of the “new golden age of vaccinology.”

Meanwhile, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki reckons her company’s DNA analysis can be used to study the phenomenon of Long COVID. “We have had a very transparent and a very clear process with our customers, giving people the opportunity to get their information, to delete it when they want to, and then to opt into research,” she told Leaf.

Today’s Day Two of the conference, and the agenda boasts names such as Google Health chief health officer Karen DeSalvo, Komodo Health CEO Arif Nathoo, Salesforce president Brent Hyder and Kaiser Permanente chair CEO Greg Adams.

* * *

On the subject of the pandemic, I’ve been hugely heartened to see the Biden administration relaxing its ban on the export of vaccines and vaccine materials this week, largely in response to the horrific situation in India.

It’s an overdue move. And, as Boston Consulting Group CEO Rich Lesser and managing director Marin Gjaja write in this piece for Fortune, it’s not enough.

“Now it’s time to make the more difficult choices and truly lead the global fight against this disease,” they write. “Beneath the headline of 60 million AstraZeneca doses set to be shared was the detail that they may not be available for weeks, or even months. Meanwhile, vaccine uptake in the U.S. continues to soften, and we are actively building inventory at a rate of nearly 2 million doses per day. Instead of waiting until the summer to start redistributing, we have an opportunity to share a portion of secured capacity and unused doses today, quickly stymying further outbreaks across the world.”

Also don’t miss this Fortune piece from B Team CEO Halla Tomasdottir, on the subject of diverse leadership: “In my own experiences as candidate for president of Iceland, as co-founder and executive chairman of an investment firm and as a mentor to female entrepreneurs, I regularly encounter the same problem: a lack of recognition that changing who is in charge is the best way to change how we tackle our biggest, collective challenges while simultaneously improving corporate performance.”

News below.

David Meyer


U.K.-EU trade

The European Parliament has overwhelmingly ratified the EU's post-Brexit trade deal with the U.K., making it a done deal (that, despite EU lawmakers' insistence on deliberative scrutiny, still went into effect on January 1). The question now is whether the two sides can come to trust one another. Fortune

Apple antitrust

Not the EU this time; Russia has fined Apple $12 million for abusing its dominance in the app market. Specifically, the Russian antitrust authority sanctioned Apple over its gatekeeper role in the iOS App Store, which it used to deny a new version of an app from the Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky. Reuters

Estate tax

The Biden administration is reportedly planning to break a campaign pledge by leaving estate tax levels where they are. President Biden is due to unveil his "American Families Plan" today, and that element is apparently missing because the White House isn't sure of congressional Democrats' backing. The $1.8 trillion plan will largely be a mix of new spending—on child care, education and paid leave—and extended tax breaks. Fortune

Alphabet results

Alphabet had a killer quarter, powered by ad sales to businesses expanding during the pandemic reopening. The Google parent also unveiled a $50 billion share buyback. Its stock rose nearly 5% as a result. Fortune


Leaving nuclear

As the U.S.'s nuclear energy industry dies, a pair of companies is stepping in with a plan to handle the decommissionings. As Jeffrey Rothfelder and Christopher Maag write for Fortune: "The dismantling of the U.S. nuclear power industry, by any measure the largest environmental cleanup in American history, is being handed off to two private companies with low public profiles and histories of bribery or financial failure—Holtec and its New York–based rival NorthStar Group Services." Fortune

Solving water

Women will lead the way to solving the world's water and sanitation crises, but they need resources, write and WaterEquity co-founders Matt Damon and Gary White in this piece for Fortune. "We believe in extending loans to those who are most likely to succeed in bringing water to their homes and communities," they say. "Women take out 87% of the microloans provided by our partners, and their 99% repayment rate reflects these borrowers’ financial savvy." Fortune

IPO boom

IPO deal numbers and values are at their highest levels (for the time of year) in at least 26 years. Data from Dealogic shows there have been 875 flotations raising at least $1m since the start of the year. The previous, dotcom-boom record saw 592 such IPOs over the same time period in 2000. Financial Times

Vaccine players

France's Sanofi says its COVID vaccine—the development of which remains incomplete—could still play a role in fighting the pandemic, due to the emergence of new strains and the need for booster shots. CFO Jean-Baptiste de Chatillon: "We see clear indications that societies want us to go on developing those drugs, because they might well find an important place in the global need in the future years." Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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