Moderna chair’s advice to have more COVID-19 vaccine–style breakthroughs: ‘Trust your crazy ideas’

Good morning.

I’m in Florida this morning at the Lake Nona Impact Forum, an eclectic interaction of people and ideas focused broadly around health and wellness. In my first few hours on site, I heard Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson talk about how he taught his teammates to use Zoom; meditation guru Deepak Chopra argue he was aging in reverse; Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg talk about how he scored his own mood every morning to prepare for the day; and education entrepreneur Michael Crow and filmmaker Walter Parkes discuss a partnership to teach science with immersive artificial reality.

My role for the afternoon was to interview Noubar Afeyan, chairman of vaccine maker Moderna and CEO of its parent company, Flagship Pioneering. Afeyan told the audience that the lesson of the pandemic is that we need to demand more of the health care system. The development of a vaccine under Operation Warp Speed showed what’s possible. The next step, he said, is to take a similar approach for challenges like obesity, Alzheimer’s, and cancer: “97% of health care spending happens after a disease is diagnosed. We need to devote more attention to treating pre-disease.”

When I asked about his firm Flagship Pioneering, which incubates companies like Moderna, he said the goal is to “make the impossible possible” and to “take the fiction out of science fiction.” As for his advice to entrepreneurs, he gave a simple prescription:

“Trust your crazy ideas.”

Speaking of crazy ideas, Hong Kong’s determination to stick to a zero-COVID policy has led to a massive plan to test every one of the city’s 7.4 million residents three times. Those who test positive will immediately be sent to quarantine facilities. Those who try to avoid testing will be prosecuted. You can read more here.

And check out this week’s episode of Leadership Next, featuring Signet Jewelers CEO Gina Drosos, on Apple and Spotify.

More news below.

Alan Murray



Russia declared war on Ukraine following an appeal to President Vladimir Putin by the puppet leaders of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, breakaway states in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region that Putin officially recognized on Monday. Putin described the operation as a “special military action” in a “hostile anti-Russia on our own historical territories.” U.S. President Joe Biden: “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering.” Fortune

Missile strikes have been reported in cities across Ukraine, and Russian troops are pouring in from the east and landing at south coast cities Odessa and Mariupol. This is a full-scale attack, rather than the hypothesized scenario that would have seen war limited to clashes on the borders between Kyiv-controlled and Moscow-controlled territory in the Donbas. Ukraine has declared martial law. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba: “This is a war of aggression. Ukraine will defend itself and will win. The world can and must stop Putin. The time to act is now.” Putin: “Who might be tempted to meddle in the ongoing events: Whoever tries to stand in our way or create threats for our country…people should know Russia’s response will be immediate and lead you to consequences you have never encountered in your history.” Reuters

The market impact in Russia was instant and catastrophic, with the MOEX Russia index falling 45% before pulling back to what was, at the time of writing, a 30% drop. Ukraine’s PFTS stock exchange delayed its open as a result of the emergency, and its central bank halted the country’s currency market, while also limiting the cash amounts people can withdraw. Europe’s Stoxx 600 was down 3.6% at the time of publication, and U.S. futures indicate drops more in the 2% zone. Crypto, the great non-hedge, is down. Oil has topped $100 a barrel for the first time since 2014. Fortune

Here’s a list of the pipelines, plants, and ports that are key to Ukraine’s status as a commodities hub, and whose disruption could send prices soaring. Fortune

Western sanctions will ratchet up significantly today, with the U.S. and Europe likely to sanction large Russian banks and hit Russia with technology export bans that could hinder its development. (Here’s a piece on the targets of earlier sanctions.) Immediate questions: Will Europe keep buying Russian gas? Will Russia be cut off from the SWIFT payment network? Will the U.K., where Russian oligarchs hold a lot of sway (and property), really crack down on them? But whatever the answers, U.S. officials are deeply skeptical that sanctions will convince Putin to pull back. Fortune

Blockading Russia’s access to chips “could spark countermeasures from Russia, which dominates the manufacture of components vital to chip production,” writes Fortune’s Eamon Barrett. “In the long run, the move might weaken U.S. chip supremacy altogether.” Fortune

President Biden sanctioned Nord Stream 2 AG, the Gazprom-controlled operating company for the completed but nonoperational Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline. Germany already suspended Nord Stream 2’s certification earlier this week. The sanctions will also include Nord Stream 2’s corporate officers, and its chair is former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder—but he will reportedly not be affected. Reuters



Beijing is in a real bind now, as it’s quite keen on the kind of sovereignty Putin is now trampling over. However, as Fortune’s Yvonne Lau explains, the two countries’ interests converge when it comes to energy. Fortune

The President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, has asked her government to declare a state of emergency and prepare for a massive refugee influx. Moldova is a small country that lies to Ukraine’s southwest, and it also has a breakaway region, Transnistria, that has had Russian troops in it illegally for years. Transnistria is right on the Ukraine border. RFE/RL

Former U.S. President Donald Trump thinks Putin’s invasion is “genius” and “savvy.” Fortune

Ethereum cofounder Vitalik Buterin, a Russian-Canadian, slammed the invasion as a “crime against the Ukrainian and Russian people…Ethereum is neutral, but I am not.” Fortune

Twitter responded to the crisis by advising people, in English and Ukrainian, on how to deactivate their accounts if needed. Bloomberg

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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