Boston 25 News goes ‘Inside Moderna’: Looking to future treatments

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cambridge-based Moderna surged to the front of the vaccine race, but company leaders say they hope their mRNA breakthrough is just the beginning. Whether you already got the company’s shot or you’re skeptical about vaccines in general, Boston 25 News wanted to bring your questions directly to the local company’s leaders for answers.

Boston 25 News anchor Vanessa Welch spent weeks interviewing Moderna leaders, from the president to the scientists behind their technology, to get answers in a series of reports.

Part 1: Boston 25 News goes ‘Inside Moderna’: From side effects to skepticism to safety

Part 2: Boston 25 News goes ‘Inside Moderna’: How a small local company became a household name


ON LONG-TERM SIDE EFFECTS OF THE VACCINE

Vanessa Welch: “The mRNA technology is so new; how do you know that people won’t have issues down the line?”

Stephen Hoge, Moderna president: “It’s really not something that you would expect to see at this point, given the number of people that have been exposed.”

Melanie Ivarsson, Chief Development Officer: “Some people were vaccinated, you know, over a year ago now in our clinical trials. So, we’re collecting much longer-term safety data than people realize. And we look at it all the time.”

ON THE QUICK DISAPPEARANCE OF mRNA

Stephen Hoge, Moderna president: “One of the great things about messenger RNA…is they essentially get digested in a day or two, they’re not in your body anymore. There’s nothing left, it becomes food for yourself and energy for your cells and [is] rapidly broken down. All that you’re left with is the immune memory. We’ve actually engineered our technology so that it’s there. It’s intense and then it’s gone. And that’s the feature that we think also should give people some confidence long-term.”

ON RECRUITING KIDS FOR THEIR CURRENT TRIALS FOR CHILDREN

Welch: “Was it difficult to recruit kids for the next trial? Were some parents a little hesitant?”

Ivarsson: “It was not. I have to say, once we opened up our clinical trial website for a kid COVID study, we had over 15,000 families pre-register in 24 hours.”

Welch: “What does that say to you?”

Ivarsson: “It says that people really want a vaccine.”

Welch: “What do you say to parents who aren’t sold on the vaccine for kids?”

Ivarsson: “Children are less impacted by COVID-19 infection, we do know that they are definitely a source of transmitting the virus.”

ON A COMBINED FLU SHOT AND COVID VACCINE

Hoge: “What we’re trying to do is, over time, bring forward a combination [of] respiratory vaccines that had the benefit of both reducing your risk of flu and reducing your risk of SARS coV2.”

ON WHAT THEY’E WORKING ON RIGHT NOW

Hamilton Bennett, Senior Director of Vaccine Access & Partnerships: “It’s 48-hour days at this point. The virus doesn’t take a break. As long as there are people that don’t have access to the vaccine, as long as there are populations or communities that haven’t yet received product, we can’t stop. There’s a list of pathogens on the WHO priority list that need vaccines. And I intend to work my way through that list.”

ON WHAT STILL KEEPS THEM UP AT NIGHT AND MODERNA’S LEGACY

Welch: “Do you worry that you’re growing too quickly?”

Hoge: “Worrying about the growth of the company and particular culture is probably the thing that keeps me and our CEO up the most. And that’s because we’re really proud of our lineage, who we’ve been, the people we’ve brought in and what we’ve accomplished. But it’s pretty hard to double in size every year and keep that same spirit together.

Welch: “Is this vaccine this company’s legacy? Or is there more to come?”

Hoge: “We really think we’re just getting started. COVID-19, in some ways, was just a dress run for what we’re trying to deliver in the years ahead. I hope that against diseases like cancer and heart disease and many other infectious diseases that we’re working on right now in clinical trials, I actually hope that that is the legacy of what we’ve done, is that we change the way people think about medicine. That’s going to take us another decade. We’re nowhere near done yet. But I certainly hope that that is the legacy of Moderna.”

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