May 16, 2021

Drew Weissman, the architect of the Covid-19 vaccines

PORTRAIT – This immunologist from the University of Pennsylvania laid the foundations of the technique on which Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer relied to create in record time the first so-called messenger RNA vaccines, already inoculated in the United States and soon in France.

Like many others before him, Drew Weissman is one of those who changed history from behind the scenes. Doctor emeritus in immunology, he is to vaccines against Covid-19 what Alan Turing was to the invention of the computer. A brilliant mathematician, Turing had developed as early as the 1930s a machine that prefigured modern computing; Weissman, meanwhile, outlined the science behind the very first solutions to the pandemic: messenger RNA. Groundbreaking work that laid the groundwork for scientists to manufacture a vaccine in less than 250 days after the start of the pandemic – the polio vaccine required more than a decade of research. A work that began almost thirty years ago.

In the early 1990s, Weissman arrived as a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania after completing an internship under the supervision of Dr. Anthony Fauci – the current director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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