The Malta Independent 23 January 2021, Saturday

Malta’s link to Covid-19 vaccine: Moderna was founded by scientist with Maltese roots

Monday, 23 November 2020, 13:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

One of the companies heavily involved in the formulation of a vaccine to combat Covid-19 was set up by a scientist with Maltese roots, a Canadian English-language newspaper reports.

He is Derrick Rossi, a retired Harvard University Professor, who founded biotech company Moderna in 2010.

The experimental vaccine produced by Moderna Inc yielded extraordinarily strong results last week, giving fresh hope to the medical field as the pandemic is entering a terrible phase.

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Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine looked 90% effective — news that puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the US.

Rossi now no longer has a formal role in Moderna, the National Post reports, beyond “owning a significant chunk of its shares”.

Rossi’s father, Fred, worked at an auto body shop. His mother, Agnes, owned a piece of a Maltese bakery, the Post reports. “Neither parent had more than a high school education. They came to Canada. They worked. They raised five kids. Derrick was the baby of the bunch and a super-keen student,” the report adds.

“As soon as I learned about molecular biology that was it, I knew what I wanted to be,” Rossi says.

He obtained two University degrees from the Toronto University, did a stint in Helsinki and made stops in Stanford and Texas before settling at Harvard.

The report says that Rossi “was never actually on the (Moderna) payroll, but rather served on the board, and as a scientific advisor until cutting formal ties with the firm in 2014 because, well, Rossi had other stuff to do, like running a 12-person lab at Harvard and launching four subsequent biotech firms.”

The full report can be read here.

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