Noubar Afeyan on the Permission to Leap | Conversations with Tyler
In a riveting discussion with Tyler, Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of Moderna and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, delves into the world of innovation, the systematic processes that led to the rapid development of the COVID-19 vaccine, and the future of biotech.
He also shares his unique perspective on entrepreneurship, the potential of mRNA technology, and the importance of ‘enabling research’ in the biomedical field.
The Power of mRNA Technology
mRNA technology, used in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, is the first broadly applied code molecule used as a medicine.
This technology leverages nature and facilitates the rapid development of vaccines.
Cancer and COVID-19 Vaccines: A Comparison
The processes involved in Moderna’s work on cancer vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccine are similar.
Both involve obtaining a DNA sequence, converting it into an antigenic part, making it into an RNA, and putting it into a particle.
The Future of Biotech
The current level of capital, confidence, commitment, and community in the field has reached a critical mass, paving the way for more ambitious projects.
The capabilities we have now will seem like only one percent of the capabilities we will have in ten years.
mRNA Technology and Heart Repair
mRNA technology holds the potential to repair damaged or bruised hearts.
A program in phase two trials with AstraZeneca aims to aid heart muscle recovery through stem cells.
Academic Community’s Resistance to Innovation
The academic community’s focus on incremental advances and its resistance to new ideas can stifle innovation.
The industry, on the other hand, does not face the same constraints.
The technological capabilities are now absolutely upon us to be able to harness plants and their own ecosystems to do a lot more than just create food. – Noubar Afeyan
The Need for Increased Biomedical Funding
The successful development of a vaccine in a short period of time should serve as a use case to illustrate the potential of the field.
More funding is needed for ‘enabling research,’ which can lead to dramatic departures from current treatments.
The Success of Institutions
The success of institutions like the Broad Institute at MIT and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute is not just due to luck, but also to systematic approaches that could be learned from and replicated.
The world of innovation is very much one of toggling between survival and then thriving. – Noubar Afeyan
The Underrated Potential of Plant Biotech
Plant biotech is highly underrated, especially in terms of its potential to protect against climate change.
Technological advancements are allowing us to harness plants and their ecosystems for more than just food production.