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Noubar Afeyan speaks at the 2019 Aurora Forum on October 16, 2019 in Yerevan, Armenia. Victor Boyko / Getty Images for the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative

Noubar Afeyan, co-founder and chairman of drug maker Moderna, says the technology used to make the company’s Covid-19 vaccine could change the way scientists think about therapeutics and vaccines for other diseases in the future.

“We have indeed shown in many different fields and disease vaccines that this type of technology can actually create a whole new part of the medical repertoire we need to fight disease,” Afeyan told CNN on Friday.

Moderna is one of the companies that pioneered the mRNA technology on which its vaccine is based. Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine also uses this approach.

How it works: Messenger RNA is a single strand of genetic code that cells “read” and use to make a protein. In the case of this vaccine, the mRNA instructs cells in the body to make that specific piece of the virus’ spike protein. Then the immune system sees it, recognizes it as foreign, and is ready to attack if an actual infection occurs.

“We wanted to do the work to turn such a molecule into a drug,” said Afeyan. “The difference is when you’re dealing with an information molecule, a code molecule. If you change the code, you should be able to make any therapeutic or vaccine you want. That was the dream.”

He says this technology will change people’s perception of how long it should take to make a vaccine, adding that the “Covid-19 vaccine example will break new ground.”

“Maybe not always being able to go from zero to vaccine in less than a year, but certainly the five to ten years it took were due somewhat to older technology and also to the belief that it did.” to take so long that we don’t have to do anymore, “he said.

A context: The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Panel met on Thursday to discuss Moderna’s vaccine and is expected to use it for emergency purposes in the coming days. Once that happens, Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar says the federal government has nearly 5.9 million doses ready to ship.

Watch the co-founder of Moderna:

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