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Working Paper

mRNA vaccines: a lucky shot?

How can the background of mRNA technology development help us understand how public vaccine research and development policy can be improved to generate the full global social benefits from breakthrough novel vaccine technologies?

By: Date: December 13, 2021 Topic: Digital economy and innovation

The author would like to thank Bruegel researchers for helpful comments. This paper was financially supported by Wellcome Trust, as part of a project for the G2O High Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

MRNA technology has proved in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic its breakthrough value as a basis for vaccines. There has been rapid development of highly safe, effective and robust mRNA vaccines, and these can be delivered at large scale. Yet the technology is the result of a long process of accumulation of innovation and capacity. It was a bumpy process that could easily have turned out differently. The mRNA vaccines story suggests that a vibrant vaccine ecosystem cannot be taken for granted in terms of delivering the breakthroughs needed for global pandemic preparedness and response. This paper examines the background of mRNA technology development to understand better how public vaccine research and development policy can be improved to generate the full global social benefits from breakthrough novel vaccine technologies, like mRNA.

Recommended citation:
Veugelers, R. (2021) ‘mRNA vaccines: a lucky shot?’, Working Paper 13/2021, Bruegel

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