🦀 vaccine supply chains.
on the agenda this week: freezer farms, horseshoe crabs and the husband-and-wife team behind the vaccine.
📖 reading time: 4m 32s.
hi :) happy monday.
as i’m sure you heard, pfizer inc. and biontech se announced last week that their vaccine candidate prevented more than 90% of covid-19 cases in their 44,000-person clinical trial. i’m feeling cautiously optimistic that this time next year might see a return to normalcy.
i hope you’re keeping well, as always. stay safe, and mask up.
a special thank you to my paid subscribers: i appreciate the support.
👂 earworm: listen to jim-e stack.
📚 word of the week:
marked or characterized by deceitfulness in speech or conduct, as by speaking or acting in two different ways to different people concerning the same matter.
cambridge analytica obtained user data through duplicitous means, but similar data sets are widely and legally available; micro-targeting is commonplace on nearly all political campaigns.
- the new yorker, november 25, 2019
🧠 brain candy:
✈️ in 1990 the window of ba flight 5390 broke off and one of the pilots was sucked out. the other pilots held onto his legs as the plane landed before realising he way still alive.
🇪🇸 barcelona plans to convert its entire central grid into a greener, pedestrian-friendly area, making it nearly car-free.
🎤 what happened to the singer labrinth? “if i’m asked what i do in a cab and say i’m a musician, they will say 'hip-hop or r&b?’, and i think 'shit, did my face say that’s all i could do?”
🤯 the most powerful way to get someone to believe something is not to show them facts. instead, it’s to make their income or approval in a social circle depend on believing it.
📦 ups, fedex and dhl are building football field-sized ‘freezer farms’ for cold storage of covid-19 vaccine deliveries.
🤪 mildly humorous:
💡 longer reads:
two years ago, dr. ugur sahin took the stage at a conference in berlin and made a bold prediction. speaking to a roomful of infectious disease experts, he said his company might be able to use its so-called messenger rna technology to rapidly develop a vaccine in the event of a global pandemic.
at the time, dr. sahin and his company, biontech, were little known outside the small world of european biotechnology start-ups. biontech, which dr. sahin founded with his wife, dr. özlem türeci, was mostly focused on cancer treatments. it had never brought a product to market. covid-19 did not yet exist.
but his words proved prophetic.
on monday, biontech and pfizer announced that a vaccine for the coronavirus developed by dr. sahin and his team was more than 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of having previously been infected. the stunning results vaulted biontech and pfizer to the front of the race to find a cure for a disease that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.
“it could be the beginning of the end of the covid era,” dr. sahin said in an interview on tuesday.
biontech began work on the vaccine in january, after dr. sahin read an article in the medical journal the lancet that left him convinced that the coronavirus, at the time spreading quickly in parts of china, would explode into a full-blown pandemic. scientists at the company, based in mainz, germany, canceled vacations and set to work on what they called project lightspeed.
“there are not too many companies on the planet which have the capacity and the competence to do it so fast as we can do it,” dr. sahin said in an interview last month. “so it felt not like an opportunity, but a duty to do it, because i realized we could be among the first coming up with a vaccine.”
👉 read more via the new york times.
we’ve already seen the costs of supply-chain failures during the covid-19 pandemic: delays in the production of simple nasal swabs slowed testing by months even as the pandemic exploded in the u.s. the world is now eagerly awaiting a vaccine, and will need billions of doses as quickly as possible. if the vaccine supply chain fails, the economic and human cost of covid-19 will be prolonged.
the multilinked vaccine production chain will take months to set up, which means starting now. some parts are already seeing investment — glass manufacturers, for example, are ramping up production of vials. but the supply of less obvious inputs needed earlier in the chain is uncertain.
vaccine supply chains contain some unusual links, including horseshoe crab blood, shark liver oil and an enzyme that’s one of the world’s most expensive products. other links rely on novel manufacturing processes that have not yet been implemented at scale. each link in the chain needs to be stress-tested and strengthened. for the potential weak spots, alternative manufacturing processes need to be considered and prepared.
vaccines manufacturing requires a long series of biological processes, and avoiding contamination is crucial. endotoxins, which are dangerous molecules shed by bacteria, are one source of contamination. to detect them, each batch of vaccine, along with its vials and stoppers, is tested with a substance called limulus amebocyte lysate. the only known natural source of lal is horseshoe crab blood — which means that the supply varies year to year, and we have to be careful not to deplete the crab population.
luckily, a synthetic version of lal has recently been developed and approved by the u.s. food and drug administration and the european health ministry. but companies need time to validate and prepare production to be ready for a covid-19 vaccine.
👉 read more via bloomberg.
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