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How the biotech upstart Moderna exploded into one of the most important startups of all time, leading the coronavirus vaccine race - Business Insider
The world is watching Moderna, in hopes that its experimental coronavirus vaccine can help halt the pandemic. Is the biotech ready for the spotlight?
In its short corporate history, Moderna has grown accustomed to breaking records. A $450 million funding round in 2015 was a record for the biotech industry. Moderna raised even more the next year. And its 2018 initial public offering was the largest-ever for a biotech, raking in $564 million at a valuation exceeding $8 billion. Then, this year, the coronavirus struck. Moderna lapped the drug industry in speedily crafting a coronavirus vaccine candidate, zooming past competitors that dwarf the company in size and resources. Moderna's experimental serum was the first to begin human testing in mid-March. Now, the biotech is aiming to be ready this fall for emergency use, a development timeline without precedent. In the process, Moderna has continued to do what it's excelled at since its founding: woo investors with an ambitious narrative of creating a new class of medicines. The company's vision can threaten to outpace the business fundamentals, particularly now, as the hopes of a coronavirus vaccine have swelled Moderna's valuation to about $25 billion. Last week alone, the company put out preliminary, yet seemingly positive data on its coronavirus vaccine. Then, it raised more than $1.3 billion by selling new shares to investors. Moderna still has no approved drugs on the market. Instead, Moderna has pitched the world on its unproven technology that promises a new class of medicine — messenger RNA. The next few months will transform Moderna, for better or worse. As the world waits on a vaccine to save itself from this pandemic, the biotech has become a household name and a leading hope. Moderna has long been one of the buzziest startups in the wonky world of biotech. Now, in taking on the coronavirus, it has gone mainstream and become of the most consequential startups of all time. Is it ready for the moment? In exclusive interviews, Business Insider talked to CEO Stephane Bancel, cofounders Noubar Afeyan and Robert Langer, and more. Loading Something is loading.
SpaceX is gunning for a history-making rocket launch of 2 NASA astronauts on Wednesday, but a stormy weather could foil its plans - Business Insider
SpaceX is about to make spaceflight history for both itself and NASA, but forecasted storms may delay the launch.
SpaceX is on the cusp of making spaceflight history for both itself and NASA — that is, if the weather cooperates. The private rocket company, founded by Elon Musk in 2002, is hoping to launch its first-ever passengers into space from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The test flight is called Demo-2, and it's the culmination of roughly $3.1 billion in funding from NASA through the agency's Commercial Crew Program, which is an effort to resurrect the human spaceflight capability that NASA lost in July 2011 when it retired its fleet of space shuttles. "We are going to launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said during a televised briefing on May 1. "We're going to do it here in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and I'm going to tell you that this is a high-priority mission to the United States of America." Demo-2 will have NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley climb aboard SpaceX's new Crew Dragon spaceship, launch into orbit atop a Falcon 9 rocket, and later dock with the International Space Station (ISS), where they could live for up to 110 days before returning to Earth. NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley (left) and Robert Behnken (right) participate in a dress rehearsal for launch at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 23, 2020, ahead of NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission to the International Space Station. Kim Shiflett/NASA Before the mission can lift off, though, SpaceX had to clear a handful of final hurdles. On Friday, the company passed a critical safety review of the mission, test-fired its rocket, and on Saturday, performed a launch dress rehearsal. On Monday, SpaceX passed an ultimate launch readiness review with NASA, which gave the Demo-2 mission a "go" for launch at 4:33 p.m. ET on Wednesday. "Now the only thing we need to do is figure out how to do is control the weather," Kathy Lueders, who has managed NASA's Commercial Crew Program since 2013, said during a telephone press briefing on Monday. During Monday's briefing, Mike McAleenan, the launch weather officer for the US Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron, jokingly assured Lueders that his division is "in the weather sales business, not production." Storms have battered Cape Canaveral for days, dropping more than two inches of rain in the area on Friday. "We're very happy we're not launching today," McAleenan said. He said the weather forecast on Monday morning looked poor, with a 60% chance of violating the safety conditions required to launch Demo-2 — things like lightning, strong high-altitude winds, and even high seas in the Atlantic Ocean, where emergency recovery boats will be stationed in case Behnken and Hurley have to abort to safety after launch. But McAleenan said the forecast seemed to improve throughout the day, with what he estimated will be as of Tuesday morning a 40% chance of not launching the mission on Wednesday. If SpaceX can't lift off the mission then, their next chances to do so will be at 3:22 p.m. ET on Saturday or 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, Emre Kelly of Florida Today tweeted on Monday. An illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon vehicle, a spaceship designed to fly NASA astronauts, docking with the International Space Station. SpaceX The launch is tricky not only because it's a test flight with people on board, but also because it has to launch when the space station is more or less flying over the launch site (so the spaceship can use less fuel catching up to it). The window to launch lasts about one second, so if the moment is missed, the attempt will be scrubbed. Weather is a concern elsewhere, too. The Crew Dragon will be rocketed eastward across the Atlantic Ocean, so clusters of planned emergency landing sites must be clear enough to recover the astronauts after they parachute back to Earth and splash into the water. "In case something happens, you want to make sure that Dragon capsule can land," Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of mission assurance, said during Monday's briefing. "So the waves should be not too rough, the wind should not be too fast." SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft integrated with a Falcon 9 rocket in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39A on May 20, 2020. SpaceX via Twitter Demo-2 is also SpaceX's most important mission to date, since human lives are on the line. SpaceX has cut down risk by flying its Falcon 9 rocket dozens of times beforehand. It also based the design of its new Crew Dragon vehicle — also called Dragon 2 — on its older Cargo Dragon ship called Dragon 1, which has successfully reached the ISS 20 times. Still, Crew Dragon has only flown to orbit once on a mission called Demo-1 in March 2019 and performed a high-stress abort test in January 2020. Musk told Irene Klotz of Aviation Week that while the threat is low, his "biggest concern" about the new spaceship is the capsule's asymmetric design, which is driven by its emergency escape system. While screaming back to Earth at 25 times the speed of sound, the capsule's heat shield will deflect and absorb the energy of superheated plasma — but the forces of atmospheric reentry have a slim chance of causing potentially catastrophic issues, Musk said. "If you rotate too much, then you could potentially catch the plasma in the super Draco escape thruster pods," Musk said, adding this could overheat parts of the ship or cause it to lose control (by wobbling). "We've looked at this six ways to Sunday, so it's not that I think this will fail. It's just that I worry a bit that it is asymmetric on the backshell." An illustration of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship returning to Earth with a blaze of plasma ahead of its heat shield. SpaceX via YouTube When asked what keeps him up at night, if anything, Koenigsmann named the Crew Dragon's parachutes as one concern, since their packing can't be tested until they're deployed, and the 200-or-so valves on the Falcon 9 rocket that have to work in concert. But Koenigsmann ultimately indicated he's satisfied with the years of work that have gone into making Crew Dragon safe to fly. "I'm at the point right now where I'm actually worried about the weather, and that's a good sign," he told Business Insider. Lueders said on Monday that she was moved by Saturday's dress rehearsal, during which the astronauts put on their spacesuits, drove a Tesla electric car to the launchpad, and climbed aboard the spaceship. "I can't tell you how moving it was for me to see Bob and Doug get into vehicles, and ride out to the pad, and realize that the next time was going to be when we were getting ready to launch," Lueders said.
Major pharma companies rejected a 2017 EU proposal that could let vaccines for viruses like the coronavirus be developed before an outbreak - Business Insider
Representatives of a group including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson are on the body that rejected the proposal, The Guardian reported.
The world's biggest pharmaceutical companies blocked a 2017 EU proposal that could allow vaccines against viruses like the novel coronavirus to be developed before an outbreak begins, The Guardian reported. Representatives of the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, who sat on a body dedicated to improving the bloc's pharmaceutical research put forward the proposal that could help fast-track vaccines, but the major drugmakers on the body rejected it. The Guardian reported that the commission's argument had been that the research could "facilitate the development and regulatory approval of vaccines against priority pathogens, to the extent possible before an actual outbreak occurs." A vaccine candidate used in a clinical trial in Oxford, England, in April 2020. Sean Elias/Handout via Reuters The governing board of the body, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), includes representatives of a group that includes GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson as members. The proposal would have involved improving computer simulations and testing analysis that would give more information and allow more confidence in approving vaccines, according to The Guardian. But a new report from Brussels-based research and campaign group the Corporate Observatory Europe, which contains the revelation about the 2017 proposal, claims the IMI has been overly focused on the market and has not adequately addressed diseases like coronaviruses as a result. The IMI receives funding from the EU as well as contributions from private bodies, giving it a budget of €5 billion ($54.4 billion). The Guardian reported that the IMI also decided to not help funding projects that wanted to fight coronaviruses like MERS and SARS. An IMI spokeswoman told The Guardian that vaccines and such diseases are a priority for the group, and pointed to a €20 million bioprepardness project launched after the 2015 pandemic, as well as new funding for vaccines released in January. She said that the CEO report falsely "seems to suggest the IMI has failed in its mission to protect the European citizen by letting pass an opportunity to prepare society for the current Covid pandemic." A pharmacist gives Jennifer Haller, left, the first shot in the first-stage safety study clinical trial of a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. Ted S. Warren/Associated Press "This is misleading in two ways: the research proposed by the EC in the biopreparedness topic was small in scope, and focused on revisiting animal models and developing in silico models to better define/anticipate the type and level of immune response elicited in animals and humans in order to increase regulators' confidence in the evidence base for alternative licensing procedures," she said. She said the IMI has helped prepare for this pandemic through previous funding for infectious diseases. She also added that the 2017 proposal was competing with other research at the time, like research into tuberculosis and auto-immune diseases. But the CEO report questioned the group's focus on treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes, given the huge focus already being given to those treatments by governments and pharmaceutical countries around the world. Companies around the world are rushing to try and create an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, but there is no guarantee of success. Even the fastest vaccine rolllout in history would still mean nothing would be approved for months. Loading Something is loading.
Here’s what the CDC guidelines for reopening schools actually recommend, including mask-wearing and closing playgrounds - Business Insider
The CDC encourages school leaders, teachers, and parents to consider taking precautions like staggering drop-offs and disinfecting any shared toys.
caption A teacher and student in a private school in France on May 12. source Stephane Mahe/Reuters
- On May 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines for reopening schools.
- A meme circulating social media pans them as excessive and impractical but mischaracterizes some of what the CDC laid out.
- The considerations include encouraging people who are sick to stay home, emphasizing handwashing, and seating students at least 6 feet apart if possible.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
- Encourage staff and kids to stay home if they’re sick or have come into close contact with someone who is by implementing flexible leave policies and ditching attendance awards.
- Enforce good hygiene, like handwashing for at least 20 seconds, using hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water, and sneezing into a tissue that’s subsequently tossed.
- Support mask wearing among older kids and staff members, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible.
- Clean high-touch surfaces at least daily if possible, and share toys or supplies only if they can be cleaned between uses.
- Modify room layouts, like by spacing desks 6 feet apart and keeping all kids facing in the same direction rather than toward one other.
- Install partitions in places where keeping a 6-foot distance is difficult, like at reception desks and between sinks.
- Close cafeterias and playgrounds or stagger their use and disinfect in between uses.
- Have kids bring their own food or serve individually plated or bagged meals – as always, if feasible.
- Try to keep the same small group of kids with the same staff.
- Stagger drop-off and pickup times if possible.
Google is making it easier to see wheelchair accessible places in Google Maps - Business Insider
Google Maps is getting an update that includes the option to prioritize information in the popular navigation app about wheelchair-friendly places.
Google is making it easier to find places with wheelchair accessible entrances, parking, seating, and restrooms through Google Maps, the company announced on Thursday. The search giant is rolling out an update to its Maps app that includes a new setting for prioritizing such information. Google Maps has been offering wheelchair accessible information for years, but it's only now adding the new setting to prioritize seeing this information within the app. To do so, make sure your Google Maps app is up to date and tap your profile photo in the top right corner of the screen. Then, tap the "Settings" option and press the "Accessibility" category. From there, you should see a new option called "Accessible Places." The feature is available starting immediately in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan across iOS and Android devices. Google will also be making it easier for iPhone users to contribute information to Google Maps about whether or not certain locations are wheelchair accessible. The update comes after Google redesigned Maps earlier this year to coincide with the app's 15th birthday. That overhaul made it easier to use Google Maps for tasks other than straightforward navigation — like finding points of interest. Google's new additions to Maps also come as Apple has been investing more heavily in Apple Maps over the past year. Apple's iOS 13 update, which launched last fall, brought new features to Apple's navigation app like Look Around — essentially the company's answer to Google's Street View — as well as easier access to frequently visited places.
Apple’s 16-inch MacBook Pro powerhouse laptop is $300 off right now - Business Insider
In true Apple fashion, even a $300 deal doesn't make the 16-inch MacBook Pro much more affordable, but $300 is $300.
When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more. Crystal Cox/Business Insider Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pros are $300 off right now at B&H, which drops the $2,400 minimum price down to $2,100. In true Apple fashion, even a $300 discount doesn't make the 16-inch MacBook Pro much more affordable. But, $300 is $300, which you can use towards other gadgets or gear you need, or simply to save. Apple's 16-inch MacBook Pro are the most powerful laptops in Apple's arsenal. They come with a large 16-inch screen, powerful Intel processors, and dedicated graphics chips for more intensive and power-hungry tasks like video editing and rendering. Check out our 16-inch MacBook Pro review here. The 16-inch MacBook Pro also marked the beginning of the end for Apple's flawed and unpopular "Butterfly" keyboard, which Apple has replaced with a more reliable and comfortable "Magic" keyboard. They're also you're only option if you want an Apple laptop with a screen larger than 13 inches, which can be unfortunate for those who don't need the power that the 16-inch MacBook Pros offer, as well as their ensuing price tags. This deal is only available while B&H's supply of units lasts, all of which you can find below.
10 things in tech you need to know today - Business Insider
Tesla dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County, and Apple and Google started rolling out their COVID-19 contact tracing tech.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk. AP Photo Good morning! This is the tech news you need to know this Thursday.
- Tesla dropped its lawsuit against Alameda County over its coronavirus shutdown. CEO Elon Musk has railed against government-issued guidance during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Apple and Google have started rolling out their COVID-19 contact tracing tech in a publicly available software update. The software will use Bluetooth to detect other smartphones in close proximity and alert the user – assuming they have a relevant health app installed – if they come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Utah reportedly spent nearly $3 million on a contact tracing app that less than 2% of the state's population has downloaded. The app's developers also haven't yet delivered on many of the features they promised, according to BuzzFeed News.
- Deutsche Bank analysts said Facebook's big push into online shopping could generate a $30 billion jump in annual revenue. On Tuesday, Facebook announced Facebook Shops — a way for businesses to create online storefronts.
- More than 50 civil liberties groups are urging Congress to block the FBI from viewing Americans' web-browsing history without a warrant. The Senate last week passed a reauthorization of the Patriot Act that included language from Mitch McConnell granting the FBI authority to see web-browsing records without a warrant.
- Google has struck a deal with the Department of Defense to fight cybercrime. The deal will see Google's cloud division provide tools to the DoD's Defense Innovation Unit.
- Cybersecurity experts found seven security flaws in the UK's contact-tracing app. The researchers recommend that the app switch from using a centralized approach, which pools user data in a central server, to a decentralized approach.
- An Apple whistleblower publicly slammed the company, claiming it violated 'fundamental rights' after Siri recorded users' intimate moments without consent. Thomas le Bonniec revealed to The Guardian last year that while working for Apple he overheard Siri users' private moments, including medical discussions, drug deals, and people having sex.
- Multiple people on Twitter said Tuesday night they had tried to call Citibank's customer support line, but were only met with the automated prompt: "Hello world. Weasels have eaten our phone system."Although some speculated Citibank's phones had been hacked, this prompt was actually in place of an error message indicating something was wrong with the bank's phone system.
- A survey of thousands of San Francisco Bay Area techies found that two out of three would consider leaving if they could permanently work remotely. Respondents also overwhelmingly said they don't expect to be going back into offices every day after the end of the pandemic.
Samsung’s $400 Galaxy A51 would have been a perfect choice for budget buyers, but Apple’s new iPhone SE has completely ruined its party - Business Insider
Samsung gave the budget A51 great premium flourishes, but it compromised on the one thing that shouldn't be: performance. Read our full review.
When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more. Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider The mid-range smartphone category is a game of balance and compromises, and different phone makers place more importance on certain aspects than others. For the iPhone SE, Apple placed massive importance on performance by essentially giving the iPhone 8 the same powerful mobile chip as the iPhone 11 series. Everything else about the iPhone 8, including the design, screen, battery life, and camera was good enough and could remain the same, so the company correctly thought. As for Google's Pixel 3a from May 2019, the company focused on giving its mid-ranger a stunning flagship-quality camera, as well as a great OLED screen. That meant compromise on the design and materials — it's a plastic phone (that still feels great) with an uninspiring design. For the Galaxy A51, Samsung nearly made a full-flagship phone for people who want the triple-camera systems and large beautiful screens you'd normally find on flagships. But, the company went so far with premium features that it neglected the phone's performance. Check out what Samsung has focused on and what the company has compromised in the Galaxy A51:
- Display: 6.5-inch 1080p (2,400 x 1,080) 60Hz AMOLED
- Processor: Exynos 9611
- Memory & storage: 4GB RAM & 128GB storage, expandable up to 512GB with microSD card
- Rear cameras: 48-megapixel wide, 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 5-megapixel macro lens
- Selfie camera: 32-megapixel
- Battery: 4,000mAh
You can get a free copy of ‘Grand Theft Auto 5’ right now — here’s how - Business Insider
"Grand Theft Auto 5" is the current free giveaway on the Epic Games Store, the digital storefront operated by the company that makes "Fortnite."
"Grand Theft Auto 5" is under 10 years old, yet it's considered by many to be a modern classic. The game has gone on to sell over 100 million copies since launching way back in 2013, and it's available on a whole mess of different platforms: Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PC. And today, going through May 21, the PC version of the game — perhaps the best version of the game thanks to the flexibility and horsepower available on computers — is available for free through the Epic Games Store. As of May 14, when the offer went live, the store has been overwhelmed by traffic: Epic Games Signing up for and using the Epic Games Store is free, as is this offer — the only requirement is that you equip two-factor authentication to your account. You can sign up for an Epic Games Store account right here, and then snag the game right here. The free offer is said to be available through the web storefront, and through the Epic Games Store Launcher app, through May 21.
Astronomers just stitched together an unprecedented portrait of Jupiter in infrared — and realized its Great Red Spot is full of holes - Business Insider
Astronomers created a "weather satellite" by linking a Jupiter-orbiting spacecraft, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and an observatory on Earth.
caption Jupiter in infrared light, as observed by the international Gemini Observatory on May 29, 2019. source International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) and team; Acknowledgments: Mahdi Zamani New snapshots of Jupiter reveal its turbulent weather in infrared – the spectrum of light just beyond visible wavelengths. To get these unprecedentedly sharp images, a team of researchers from NASA and the University of California, Berkeley combined data from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Juno probe that orbits Jupiter, and the Gemini Observatory on Earth. The team released the images alongside a research paper in The Astrophysical Journal on Thursday. Along with new mapping of Jupiter’s lightning, the images reveal that the dark patches in the planet’s Great Red Spot are holes in its cloud cover, and not different types of cloud. caption These images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot were made using data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gemini Observatory on April 1, 2018. source NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) and team “It’s kind of like a jack-o-lantern,” Michael Wong, a planetary scientist at UC Berkeley, said of the Great Red Spot in a press release. “You see bright infrared light coming from cloud-free areas, but where there are clouds, it’s really dark in the infrared.” By studying Jupiter’s systems with multiple telescopes and spacecraft, scientists can piece together the mysteries of the planet’s atmosphere and the history of how it formed. “Because we now routinely have these high-resolution views from a couple of different observatories and wavelengths, we are learning so much more about Jupiter’s weather,” Amy Simon, a planetary scientist for NASA, said in the release. “This is our equivalent of a weather satellite. We can finally start looking at weather cycles.” Images from Earth ‘rival the view from space’ caption This video shows one lucky-imaging set of observations on Jupiter, taken April 8, 2019. source International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley) and team; Acknowledgments: Mahdi Zamani. To create these infrared images, the researchers used a technique called “lucky imaging.” That’s when a ground telescope takes many short-exposure images of the same spot, and researchers then select the sharpest images (generally from when Earth’s atmosphere was creating little interference). By stitching together these select images of each region of Jupiter, the group created an unprecedented portrait of the entire planet in infrared. “These images rival the view from space,” Wong added. A glimpse of Jupiter’s turbulent weather As Juno circles Jupiter, it picks up radio waves from lightning strikes deep within the planet’s atmosphere. The researchers matched the coordinates of those lightning strikes with images from the Gemini and Hubble telescopes. They found that the lightning forms around 40-mile-high towers of clouds that swirl and exchange heat in a process called convection, rising above water clouds deep within Jupiter’s atmosphere. caption An illustration of lightning, convective towers, deep water clouds, and clearings in Jupiter’s atmosphere. source NASA, ESA, M.H. Wong (UC Berkeley), and A. James and M.W. Carruthers (STScI) “Scientists track lightning because it is a marker of convection, the turbulent mixing process that transports Jupiter’s internal heat up to the visible cloud tops,” Wong said in a release. “Ongoing studies of lightning sources will help us understand how convection on Jupiter is different from or similar to convection in the Earth’s atmosphere.”