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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Plenty of garbage startups have been funded over the past decade, including a couple of outright frauds — and tech innovation doesn't always move as linearly as we'd like, or replicate the future as imagined by TV scriptwriters.

Yes, but: While startups and their investors were being bashed on social media, at least a few of them were laying the building blocks for technologies that could help let humanity recover its ability to work, play and spend time with loved ones.

Moderna Therapeutics was founded in 2010 in the conference room of Massachusetts-based venture capital firm Flagship.

  • It raised $2.1 million in first-round funding at an $8.4 million pre-money valuation.
  • The company is currently valued at around $37 billion, and may have just created a vaccine that will defeat the most devastating global health crisis in more than a century.

Lucira Health was founded in 2013 in Emeryville, Calif.

  • It joined the StartX accelerator program, and later raised first-round funding from firms like DCVC, Seraph Group, Danhu Capital and individuals like Pierre Lamond.
  • On Tuesday, it became the first company to receive FDA approval for a COVID-19 test that can be self-administered at home. It only will be available via prescription, at least for now, but this may be the bleeding edge of innovation that helps school and offices reopen.

The bottom line: We all hope to never again experience anything like this pandemic. Chances are, though, that some currently unknown founders and investors are preparing for it anyway.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: WHO says Omicron poses "very high" risk — Fauci says Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S. — U.S. restricts air travel from 8 countries over Omicron concerns.
  2. Politics: Biden says fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns."
  3. States: New York declares state of emergency amid concerns over Omicron.
  4. World: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating worldWHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries — First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.