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I Was There When: AI Helped Create a Vaccine

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Computer screen in a lab displays a coronavirus model .

"When COVID showed up it was...a powerful moment for us to take everything we had built and everything we had learned..and really apply it in this important scenario." -Dave Johnson

Credit: Getty Images

As soon as the first genetic sequence of the COVID-19 virus was released, researchers began scrambling to find a vaccine. Scientists at biotech company Moderna took just 42 days to go from getting the sequence, identifying mutations and the proteins they wanted to target, to "actually building a clinical-grade, human-safe manufacturing batch and shipping it off to the clinic," says Dave Johnson, chief data and artificial intelligence officer at Moderna, in an interview. Researchers then used AI to optimize a phase-3 trial that included 30,000 subjects, helping the team figure out "...where do we run our studies, the right racial diversity, right size facility...optimal places to run the study," and more.

Johnson says he never thought that he "would ever use one of our own medicines, but to have that injected into my arm, and for my family to get it, and for my friends and to see that benefit for so many other people in the world was an amzing moment for us."

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