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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. Photo: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Moderna's CEO Stéphane Bancel tells Axios the company's coronavirus vaccine made it to market in near-record time thanks in part to a unique digital foundation.

The big picture: Moderna is far smaller than many of its pharma competitors, but it made one of the first authorized COVID-19 vaccines. But the company still needs to adapt to a mutating virus — and come up with its next blockbuster product.

What they're saying: While Moderna's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is already beginning to make a dent in the pandemic, the shifting virus still poses a major challenge to the company and all of humanity, Bancel told Axios in an interview.

  • "I think the world does not understand what's coming ahead of us," says Bancel. "I don't think we're out of the woods at all on this pandemic."

Background: That Moderna — which is barely more than a decade old and is far smaller than most of its competitors — was able to bring its vaccine to market in less than a year is a testament to the flexibility of its mRNA platform and its early embrace of digital technology and machine learning.

  • At bigger companies where Bancel worked in the past, "I'd spend days trying to figure out what was the truth, because you'd have different data for the same thing," he says.
  • "We try to be a company where all the data flows and where there's only one system, one truth."

What's next: The emergence of coronavirus variants that may render vaccines less effective has Moderna preparing booster shots — something that's easier to do with the mRNA platform.

  • The COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and other companies could become a recurring product, just as the seasonal flu shot is now.

What to watch: How quickly Moderna can continue to scale up manufacturing to meet demand, a function that Bancel says is limited by regulatory requirements and sheer technical complexity.

  • Is there much that can be done "in the short term?" he asks. "Not really."

Go deeper: Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Feb 5, 2021 - World

Coronavirus cases are falling around the world

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Daily cases of COVID-19 are currently falling across most of the world, and deaths — which had been climbing globally until late January — are also beginning to decrease.

The big picture: We can only learn so much from this 30,000-foot view, and there's plenty to fear from the emerging variants. Plus, cases and deaths had been so high that even after climbing down from the peak, we're still pretty close to the summit.

Updated Feb 4, 2021 - Health

Wisconsin governor issues new mask mandate after state GOP kills previous order

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. Photo: Morry Gash-Pool via Getty Images

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Thursday issued a new statewide mask mandate almost immediately after the state Legislature voted to repeal his previous order.

Why it matters: Evers' attempts to combat COVID-19 have faced pushback from Republicans since early in the pandemic. Even with a new order, the Legislature could again vote to repeal the mask requirement.

Feb 4, 2021 - Health

LGBTQ Americans at heightened risk for severe coronavirus symptoms, CDC says

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affects LGBTQ Americans compared to their straight peers, per an analysis released Thursday.

Why it matters: The report is one of the agency's first public examinations of how the coronavirus is affecting LGBTQ people, and comes amid an information drought as advocates take the reins on gathering data.