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Tyler Cowen hosted Moderna’s co-founder Noubar Afeyan for a conversation on mRNA technology, their COVID vaccine, and what’s going on in the biotech space.
A ton of great insights in this one. Tyler raised the now-famous story of the vaccine being “designed in 2 days”, and I loved this response from Afeyan:
Well, Moderna is a company that was already 10 years old by the time the virus appeared. Unfortunately for the virus, there has been quite a lot of time to get ready with a platform and with a team that was assembled, even though it was still a massive undertaking to do something that had never been done before.
Lines right up with the “10 year overnight success” story.
On what it takes to innovate (first you have to survive):
The world of innovation is very much one of toggling between survival and thriving. I wish there was a word thrival. I haven’t quite managed to get that word in the dictionary, but that’s a good word. Between surviving and thriving, and this constant toggle between the two characterizes high-risk, daring startups, just like it does in a recovering population, where they’ve been afflicted with massive trauma, and they have to, on the one hand, survive, but on the other hand, not get trapped in the ghetto of just survival, and trying to escape it and try to thrive
He also runs a biotech accelerator/investment firm called Flagship, invested in some interesting companies. Check out the episode on Conversations with Tyler.