Fortune has unveiled a new article about Noubar Afeyan, founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a Cambridge, Mass-based biotech incubator, and how the Armenian-American investor is taking on Covid-19.
At a time when the world is just waking up to all the ways in which the planet was woefully ill-prepared for a new, highly-contagious pathogen and the global pandemic it has wrought, Afeyan is thinking about the technology that will prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again: “a pathogen defense shield,” the says.
“You don't wait until there is an all-out pandemic to come up with a vaccine or a treatment,” Afeyan has said at a recent episode of Fortune’s "Leadership Next" podcast. “You put in place surveillance. You put in place rapid response. You put in place production capacity, [so] that as soon as you have something, [it] very quickly can be produced.”
Flagship Pioneering currently has nine entities working on various ways to fight Covid-19, from companies that are using AI machine learning to help in the hunt for effective therapeutics, to others that are “computationally designing antibodies against the virus” or developing sophisticated at-home antibody tests.
The most high-profile of Flagship’s portfolio companies’ efforts, however, is that of Moderna Therapeutics, whose experimental Covid-19 vaccine candidate—made using the company’s messenger RNA platform technology—is out front in the global pharma race.
On Monday, May 18, the Cambridge-based biotech reported an early success: the first 45 volunteers who had received the company’s vaccine all developed antibodies to the virus.
Moderna, which has 15 non-COVID clinical development programs but no drugs yet approved, is hoping to start pivotal late stage vaccine trials this summer, aiming to file a new drug application later this year or 2021, says Afeyan. He notes that while there are challenges, like securing raw materials and scaling production, the company is working through them.
If the vaccine is successful, Afeyan believes Moderna can produce one billion doses annually.