Here’s where things stand for the most advanced, most promising or best-funded vaccine candidates. Use the menu on the left to jump to a developer.
One of the advantages to messenger RNA technology — a drug-making approach that uses genetic instructions to teach cells to make specific proteins — is that it can be used to build a vaccine more easily than traditional methods. Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine is proof.
The vaccine went from a computer design in January to human study in just three months, making Moderna the first U.S. company to reach that point.
Moderna kept up its record pace in the months since then. Snippets of Phase 1 results came in late May, as did the start of a mid-stage trial. A Phase 3 study began on July 27 and, four months later, delivered strongly positive results that indicated the vaccine was 94% effective in preventing COVID-19. Data shared by Moderna also show the vaccine protects people from the severe disease that leads to the worst health outcomes.
The finding was a powerful — and hopeful — result. Taken together with a similarly positive readout from Pfizer and BioNTech, which in mid-November said their shot was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19, researchers could be sure that mRNA vaccines were protective.
Crucially, Moderna’s vaccine also appeared safe, with no unexpected or serious side effects. The company formally asked the Food and Drug Administration for emergency approval on Nov. 30 and a panel of agency advisers endorsed the vaccine on Dec. 17. Just one day later, the FDA granted authorization for the shot, marking a milestone for both the U.S. public health response to the pandemic and for the decade-old biotech.
Initial supplies are limited to several tens of millions of doses, although the company and its manufacturing partners expect to greatly ramp up production in 2021.
Moderna has come under scrutiny, too, both for the price it charged the U.S. government as well as for the intellectual property it claims for its vaccine. Government scientists have supported Moderna’s work and could hold rights to some of the underpinning technology. Moderna has said it will not enforce patent rights related to its vaccine technology for the duration of the pandemic.