a16z Podcast

On Vaccines and Vaccinology, in COVID and Beyond

Rajeev Venkayya and Jorge Conde

Posted August 14, 2020

WHEN are we going to have a COVID-19 vaccine, and how the heck are we going from (what’s been traditionally been up to) 12 years or so of vaccine development compressed into 12 months or so? What will and won’t be compromised here, and where do new technologies — like mRNA or messenger RNA vaccines — come in? Where will vaccines likely be distributed first, who will and won’t get them initially, both across populations… and nations?

Rajeev Venkayya, president of the Global Vaccine Business Unit at Takeda Pharmaceutical Company and former White House Special Assistant to the President for Biodefense (where, among other things, he was the principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza) joins this special deep-dive episode of the a16z Podcast, in conversation with general partner Jorge Conde to discuss all things vaccines. Including where does manufacturing and scale-up come in — is “plug and play” really here? — and by the way, why have we traditionally used eggs in growing vaccines?

Where and how can startups and others participate in vaccine development, given how competitive, time-consuming, capital intensive, and risky it is to develop (and sell) them? Can we decouple the question of how we reopen schools with when we have a vaccine? And how do we maintain not just safety and efficacy of vaccines but trust and transparency when it comes to mis/information? We may actually see the emergence of a “Neo Anti-Vaxxer” thanks to the rush… but we may also be entering a renaissance for vaccinology after this pandemic. So what changes, what doesn’t?

image: Jernej Furman / Flickr