The underlying mRNA
technology belongs to
BioNTech and - supposing this has
been happening at all - if any company has been modifying mRNA to
encode for a homebrewed variant of the virus, it would have to be
This is already astonishing enough, since January 14, 2020 was only 2 weeks after the first report of Covid-19 cases in Wuhan.
On that very day, moreover, the WHO was saying that there was no "clear evidence" of human-to-human transmission. (See WHO tweet here.)
Why in the world would BioNTech begin work on a Covid-19 vaccine without clear evidence of human-to-human transmission?
As narrated in The
Vaccine, the small German company, which had never had any
product on the market, only succeeded in recruiting the American
multinational as partner three months later (p. 156).
But, of course, this means that the project as such must have been launched even earlier. The formulation being tested had to be produced first.
In this case, that meant
first manufacturing the mRNA and then formulating it in lipid
BioNTech was not yet able
to manufacture mRNA encoding for any element of the SARS-CoV-2 virus
- the full genome had only been published the day before - and
instead used mRNA encoding for a proxy antigen (luciferase).
Thankfully, Sahin's book, which is coauthored by his wife Özlem Türeci and the journalist Joe Miller, provides relevant technical and logistical details.
According to the book, manufacturing the mRNA,
...takes five days (pp. 170 and 171).
Five days brings us then to January 9...
But the mRNA had still to be wrapped in the lipids, and this involved a particular logistical problem:
BioNTech had its own in-house lipids, but they were found not suitable for purpose.
To get the mRNA wrapped
in the Acuitas lipids, the mRNA had to be shipped to an Austrian
subcontractor by the name of
Polymun outside Vienna.
In the book, Sahin and
Türeci describe a batch of mRNA for a subsequent animal study being
completed on March 2, being shipped to Polymun, and then returning
to Mainz wrapped in the lipids on March 9 (pp. 116 and 123).
But, as it so happens,
In The Vaccine,
Sahin and Türeci note that the later preclinical study began on
March 11, 2 days after delivery of the lipid-encapsulated mRNA.
All of this takes time...
The obvious question is: