Skip to main content

In this time of elevated innovation and transformation, the miracles of science are all around us. The emergence of Covid-19 vaccines using Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology is one of the most demonstrative examples of the speed of R&D, communication, and collaboration. 

While I often write about digital acceleration and emerging technologies, I believe this life sciences topic to be a deeply important issue moving forward. Vaccines play an essential role in our economic recovery and ongoing national security. Vaccines make the conversation of “next normal” possible. Tetra Techs COVID-19 Response-NE20-018-650

I was impressed by this recent article from The Economist that illustrates the leaps and bounds that mRNA technology has made and its instrumental role moving forward in a post-pandemic world, “Science after the pandemic – Bright side of the moonshots.”

Moonshots” is a nickname for an effort that is exploratory, ambitious, and ground-breaking. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the sharp joy of seeing decades of cumulative scientific progress in sudden, concerted action. The spate of data, experiments, and insights has had profound effects on the pandemic—and, indeed, on the future of medicine. It is also an inspiration. Around the world, scientists have put aside their own work in order to do their bit against a common foe. Jealously guarded lab space has been devoted to the grunt work of processing tests.”

As pointed out by the editors, applying the genetics of medicine in a transformative way can be used to track, cure, and prevent diseases. This technology can also be applied to societies’ resiliency against risks of the living world (e.g., disease, food security, biological warfare, or environmental degradation). As climate change effects bring displaced human and animal populations into closer contact, the chances of novel zoonotic diseases entering the mainstream are even greater.

Synthesizing and editing genes with mRNA has been proven against a new disease reflecting “huge, rapid gains in efficiency.” What once took millions of dollars and time to replicate can now be done for an increment of the previous cost through this technique.

Another benefit is that because RNA – store of genetic information – has a proof of concept, opening the door to address other diseases with more effective and personalized approaches. “If this provides a platform for getting cells to do all sorts of specific things and to desist from others, as it promises to, medicine will become both more powerful and more personal. Therapies tailored to rare, even one-off, genetic abnormalities should become routine.”

Gene-sequencing technologies will be critical in developing booster shoots, creating stockpiles of medicine, addressing new viruses, and producing antivirals to combat Covid-19. “The pandemic has shown that biomedical science has the tools and the enthusiasm to improve the world.”

In the year following the pandemic, moonshots and the scientists and innovators leading their efforts, are our greatest hope. They keep us dreaming, believing, collaborating, and working on ideas that matter and have an impact.