Icelandic vaccine scientist excited

17.11.2020 - 16:11
Örn Almarsson
 Mynd: Aðsend - Ljósmynd
An Icelandic scientist who worked on the Moderna COVID vaccine explains why it is so special.

Icelandic chemist Örn Almarsson has worked in the pharmaceutical industry in the USA for 25 years, including seven years at Moderna until earlier this year. There, he worked on the COVID-19 vaccine that has this week been unveiled to the world as up to 95 percent effective against the coronavirus. It can be stored at easier-to-maintain temperatures for longer periods of time than the 90-percent effective Pfizer BioNTech vaccine that was also unveiled recently. Both vaccines are extraordinary feats of science that push the boundaries of what is possible, Örn says.

“It is a new type of biotechnology which is built on the use of genetic material called messenger RNA, which is a single strand molecule which tries to alter protein in the body and has never been used as medication or a vaccine before. It is completely new to use these materials in cells and promote a reaction the likes of which have been documented,” Örn explains.

“The chemical composition used to introduce these materials into cells and to activate them, as has come to light is the case with this vaccine from Moderna, is a process that was being worked towards. You can say that Moderna was well prepared to take this on when the problem arose.

“It is, though, unprecedented to be able to get through Phase 3 final trials in less than a year and to not have information at the start of the year on what disease you are trying to treat. That has never happened before.

“It is partly led by technology and partly led by the need that has arisen which meant that agencies like the NIH, FDA, and the drugs companies could work together in a very interesting way,” he said in an online interview with RÚV.

Click to follow RÚV English on Facebook.