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Quick Changes If Needed

Moderna says it would be able to quickly update its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to address new genetic variants if the need arises, MIT's Technology Review reports.

New strains of the virus have been spotted, particularly in the UK and South Africa. Some of the genetic mutations have raised concerns as they affect the virus's spike protein, which vaccines target. An initial study has suggested that the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is still effective against a spike protein mutation found in both the UK and South African strains, and, according to Tech Review, Moderna says lab studies indicate its vaccine is also effective against newer strains.

But it says that if a strain arises that can evade its vaccine, it would be able to reprogram an updated one quickly, Tech Review reports, noting that it took Moderna six weeks to develop its initial vaccine. It notes that testing the vaccine in people accounted for the bulk of the development time and that that may be able to be short-circuited if regulators don't require another large 30,000-person trial, which the US Food and Drug Administration's Peter Marks has said may be possible.

"Our technology is very well suited to actually rapidly deploy a vaccine based on the new variant," Tal Zaks Moderna's chief medical officer, said during the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, according to Tech Review. "But based on the data we have seen today, we don't see a need for it."

The Scan

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