Moderna scientist to speak about COVID vaccine development

Melissa J. Moore, emeritus chief scientific officer of Moderna, will visit campus Dec. 1-2 as this year’s speaker for the Efraim Racker Lecture in Biology and Medicine.

Moore’s public lecture, “mRNA as Medicine: COVID-19 Vaccine and Beyond,” will take place at 8 p.m. Dec. 1 in Room G10 of the Biotechnology Building. The talk is free and open to the public. 

The Racker Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics and is named for the late Efraim Racker, the Albert Einstein Professor of Biochemistry and chair of the Section of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology at Cornell.

From 2016-2021, Moore led the early-stage research teams developing Moderna’s platform technologies in mRNA design and delivery. These technologies were foundational for Moderna’s ability to rapidly create a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine. Since 2021, her main focus has now become communicating the science of mRNA medicines both internally and to the outside world. 

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a recipient of the RNA Society Lifetime Achievement Award.

Moore joined Moderna in 2016 from the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS), where she served as professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology, Eleanor Eustis Farrington Chair in Cancer Research and as a long-time investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. During her 23 years as a faculty member, first at Brandeis University and then at UMMS, her research encompassed a broad array of topics related to the roles of RNA and RNA-protein (RNP) complexes in gene expression, and touched on many human diseases including cancer, neurodegeneration and preeclampsia. 

“Melissa Moore was a highly accomplished RNA biologist as a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and it was due to her exceptional science and accomplishments in this field that she was recruited to Moderna to oversee the efforts to develop RNA vaccines as therapeutics against COVID-19,” said Richard A. Cerione, Goldwin Smith Professor Pharmacology and Chemical Biology in the College of Arts & Sciences and College of Veterinary Medicine and a co-host of the Ef Racker lecture series. “The rest is history as Moderna’s roll-out of their vaccine program has saved countless lives and will go down as a historical landmark achievement.”

Moore’s current passions include educating the public about the coming age of nucleic acid medicines and increasing diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the biotechnology workforce.

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