K, it's Saturday evening and I am tired of working. So how about a little light history. I've seen some speculation as to the origin of Moderna's name. People have gotten close, but I haven't seen anyone quite get it right. On this, I admit to a bit of insider info.
My friend Derrick Rossi is the original founder of the company, and his wife was the one who came up with the name--it is a play on 'modified RNA.' Derrick (who exited from Moderna years ago) is a stem cell biologist, not an immunologist. This began when his lab wanted to find a
better way to make induced pluripotent stem cells. These are somatic cells that are reprogrammed with transcription factors to become like an embryonic stem cell. At the time, people were doing this with retroviruses, which integrate into host DNA. He explicitly wanted to avoid
these remnants, and thought, hey, why not just transfect RNA which can't go backwards? Well, as immunologists know, synthetic RNA differs from normal mRNA and triggers host sensors like RIG-I. It kills the cells and triggers a huge IFN response. The proteins never get made.
So what Derrick's group did was modify the nucleosides to make the mRNA a bit more 'normal' and avoid these sensors. Thus, Mod(ified)RNA. It isn't perfect, so you still get some pattern recognition receptors triggered. But that is actually a perfect adjuvant for vaccines.
This is his original paper that started it: sciencedirect.com/science/articl…
And some history of how Derrick knew what specific mRNA modifications to make. Important work by UPenn scientists.

h/t @g_d_williams


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23 Nov
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