DARPA’s gambles might have created the best hopes for stopping COVID-19
BioCentury is providing this story for free given the urgent need for information about the COVID-19 crisis. For more analysis, sign up for our daily email.
A U.S. defense agency that specializes in turning science fantasies into realities jump-started technologies and nurtured companies that are now at the forefront of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Defense Research Advanced Projects Agency (DARPA) has taken risks where others wouldn’t. Its pursuit of high-risk, high-reward technologies, combined with its mission-driven approach to managing projects is promising to pay off in the fight against COVID-19.
DARPA was behind the creation of DNA and RNA vaccines, funding early R&D by Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ:MRNA) and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:INO) at a time when the technologies were considered speculative by many scientists and investors.
The military R&D agency believed nucleic acid-base vaccines could be developed much faster than conventional technologies. Its funding, project management and vote of confidence helped de-risk the science and attract investments and partnerships.
NIH selected Moderna as its partner for COVID-19 vaccine development. This week, an RNA vaccine produced by Moderna became the first COVID-19 candidate vaccine to be administered in a Phase I trial.
Inovio is on track to start a Phase I trial of an DNA-based COVID-19 vaccine in early summer.
AbCellera Biologics Inc., one of the first companies out of the starting blocks in the race to discover antibody therapies for COVID-19, is using technology