Has any company’s first commercial product ever made a more heroic debut? Launched in 2010 as ModeRNA Therapeutics to harness the potential of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) for the development of new drugs, Moderna had been studying the MERS virus in a two-year collaboration with the National Institutes of Health when reports of a strange new disease began emerging from China. On January 11, 2020, Chinese authorities shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus, and within two days the Moderna/NIH research team had completed the sequence for a COVID-19 vaccine (see page 82). When Moderna finished its accelerated clinical trials by December, its vaccine showed a 94% efficacy rate against COVID-19. By June 2021, Moderna had supplied more than 200 million vaccine doses in the U.S. Moderna accomplished this at a time when, like every other company, it was forced by the pandemic to shift to a distributed workforce that grew from 800 at the end of 2019 to more than 1,300 by the end of 2020. Remote work, the company learned during its epic 2020 sprint, offered unexpected benefits for its innovators—access to leadership, a more level playing field for introverts, and an expanded talent pool due to the elimination of geographic limitations.
Read more about Fast Company‘s 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators 2021.