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AWS helps Moderna in fight against Covid-19

Steve Rogerson
August 12, 2020

Massachusetts-based biotechnology company Moderna has selected Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its preferred cloud provider, as well as for its analytics and machine learning workloads, in its fight against Covid-19.
Moderna is pioneering a new class of messenger RNA (mRNA) medicines. Leveraging its mRNA platform and manufacturing facility with the AWS-powered research engine, Moderna delivered the first clinical batch of its vaccine candidate (mRNA-1273) against Covid-19 to a trial 42 days after the initial sequencing of the virus.
By building and scaling its operations on the AWS cloud, Moderna can quickly design research experiments and uncover insights, automate its laboratory and manufacturing processes to enhance its drug discovery pipeline, and more easily comply with applicable laws and regulations during production and testing of vaccine and therapeutic candidates.
Researching and developing drugs can be complex and expensive. Scientists have to conduct years of basic research to understand how new diseases act at a molecular level in the human body and need to screen thousands of different molecular compounds – the basis for many drugs – to assess their safety and efficacy as potential treatments.
After they narrow down the pipeline, researchers perform multiple rounds of testing in the laboratory before advancing the most promising drug candidates for further study. In addition, because the manufacturing requirements for these drugs can be highly variable, pharmaceutical companies may also need to build expensive infrastructure or redesign existing facilities to produce them.
Moderna is managing these problems, leveraging AWS services to simplify the research and manufacture of a new class of drugs, based on mRNA, to treat a wide range of diseases.
Moderna has invented proprietary technologies and methods that run on AWS to create mRNA constructs that cells recognise as if they were produced in the body. This invention has empowered Moderna to experiment rapidly on virtually any mRNA sequence, easily shifting between research priorities, without investing in technology.
Moderna runs its drug design studio on AWS’s scalable compute and storage infrastructure to design mRNA sequences for protein targets. It then uses analytics and machine learning to optimise those sequences for production so the company’s automated manufacturing platform can convert them into physical mRNA for testing.
In addition, by leveraging Amazon Redshift – AWS’s fully managed data warehousing service – Moderna’s scientists and engineers aggregate results from dozens of experiments that are running in parallel and can easily query and share insights to refine their design and production cycle quickly.
Moderna runs all of its Sap S and 4 Hana workloads on AWS, including manufacturing, accounting and inventory management, which helps the company achieve efficiency and visibility across its operations.
AWS also powers Moderna’s automated production facility, which runs AWS IoT services to connect the manufacturing instruments, robotics and other critical systems that deliver the mRNA constructs for experimentation. Integrating its systems on AWS provides Moderna with the ability to trace its manufacturing process, facilitating industry best practices in its supply chain, manufacturing and quality control processes.
Moderna also used AWS to copy and paste its digital manufacturing model onto its partner’s facilities for technology transfer, giving Moderna rapid access to the additional production capacity it needs to address global demand.
“The science behind mRNA medicines is advancing at a rapid pace, and building Moderna’s technology platform on AWS gives our scientists the insights, agility and security they need to continue to lead in the industry,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. “With AWS, our researchers have the ability to quickly design and execute research experiments and rapidly uncover new insights to get potentially life-saving treatments into production faster. AWS’s breadth and depth of services are supporting our mission to create a new generation of medicines for patients and are instrumental in our quest to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 and other life-threatening diseases.”
Matt Garman, AWS vice president, added: “Running on AWS, Moderna has the agility to continuously refine its research, development and manufacturing. Moderna is relying on the proven performance and scale of the world’s leading cloud to innovate and develop drug and vaccine candidates on timelines that may have been impossible even just a few years ago.”