From centuries of innovation, a medical discovery for the ages


By Shirley Leung | Boston Globe

With the Moderna vaccine, Massachusetts is having a moment.

Ours is a story not about one company and one vaccine, but rather of countless doctors and doctorates at dozens of labs and companies that have risen to the occasion to vanquish a virus.

The world is witnessing what we’ve known all along: The Massachusetts Miracle is alive and well. It has been centuries in the making, a through line that predates the Industrial Revolution, routes through Harvard and MIT, into Kendall Square, Longwood Medical Area, the Seaport District, and out to Watertown, Waltham, Burlington, and beyond.

A common enemy — COVID-19 — has spawned uncommon collaboration, and life sciences may never be the same. Homegrown companies kicked into high gear during the earliest days to help Moderna and other drug makers make vaccines, including Ginkgo Bioworks, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and MilliporeSigma. Others began developing novel therapeutics to treat the illness itself, from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to Takeda, while yet more, such as CIC Health, E25Bio, Hologic, and Meenta, devised tests and diagnostic platforms.

The spotlight may be on Moderna — the Cambridge biotechnology company that is harnessing messenger RNA to inoculate millions — but it is far from the only local company that will likely become famous fighting the pandemic.

“There are a lot of potential Modernas,’’ said Patrick Boyle, an executive at Ginkgo Bioworks, a Boston biotech that helped Moderna scale its vaccine manufacturing. “People talk a lot about: How do you re-create Silicon Valley? After this, people will talk about: How do you re-create the innovation ecosystem of Boston and Cambridge?’’

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