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Women Lead Vaccine Development: T. Cowen (Correction)

(Bloomberg) – The early history of vaccines is a field dominated by men. Science, currently showing spectacular results, is now led by women. Therein lies a lesson in talent allocation – for example, the history of mRNA vaccines, which is the technology foundation for Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the two main vaccine candidates for the United States. In very simple terms, mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune system response, rather than injecting live or dead virus material.If done correctly, it makes the vaccine faster to develop , safer to use and easier to scale. In addition to its upcoming role in fighting COVID-19, it is likely that the mRNA vaccine platform can be adapted to combat other viruses, and other mRNA products may have additional uses, such as helping treat skin disorders. The core work behind the mRNA method comes from Katalin Karikó, a Hungarian-born immigrant who came to the US to work on RNA-related issues. Her career had ups and downs, including trouble raising funds for research and a fight against cancer, but she persisted. He ended up working with Drew Weissman, and they figured out how to inject RNA material into humans without causing excess inflammation, which had previously been the main obstacle to moving forward. Karikó ended up working with BioNTech, a German startup founded by Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, a team of husbands whose parents were Turkish guest workers in Germany. Then there’s the Novavax vaccine, which is based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The Novovax results are yet to be published, but they have emerged as very promising. This vaccine is also based on new ideas as it uses an unusual moth cell system to produce proteins in a very innovative way. The Novavax team is led by Nita Patel, an immigrant from Gujarat, India. Her vaccine team identifies as “all female.” Patel is from a very poor family; her father nearly died of tuberculosis when she was 4 years old, and she often had to beg for bus tickets. The common denominator here is people usually outside the area, as women and immigrants have been crucial on fundamental points. Phase one of Moderna’s essay, for example, was led by Lisa A. Jackson at the University of Washington. Moderna’s co-founder and president, Noubar Afeyan, is a doubly immigrant. He was born in Lebanon, his parents later emigrated to Canada and then moved to the U.S. The rapid development of all these vaccines could end up being the greatest scientific advance in decades, and has been driven by people who, in another time, never they would have had the opportunity.This is a positive development, a sobering truth and a warning about the future. In business, academia, and other fields of science, women do not have as prominent roles as in vaccine development. Given how much women have contributed to vaccines this year, think about what kind of impact they might have in other areas – the argument is not that women and men achieve exactly the same results. There may be reasons why talented women are more attracted to vaccine development than other areas. Still, the recent and unprecedented impact of women in this field means that there are other missions of concern to society that would greatly benefit from increased participation by women. The history of vaccines in the 21st century shows two things. The first is that society could still do a much better job of allocating talent and reaping similar benefits in a wider variety of areas. The second is that talent allocation mistakes can be remedied if we’re willing to take the necessary steps. If you’re looking for something hopeful amid the millions of tragic covid experiences, it’s not a bad place to start. Original Note: Women Take the Lead in Covid Vaccine Development: Tyler Cowen (Corrects the name of Nita Patel in the seventh paragraph; corrects the name of the firm that develops the Novavax vaccine in the sixth and seventh paragraphs) For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source. © 2020 Bloomberg LP

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