Hackers posted a new treasure trove of reverse-engineered data on Github.
And by “hackers”, I mean “scientists”. And this treasure trove of “reverse engineering data” is the mRNA sequence that makes Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine work.
Two Stanford scientists were able to extract the entire mRNA sequence for Modern’s COVID-19 vaccine and posted the code on Github, a site popular with software developers looking to host and share the source code.
An mRNA sequence is basically a set of instructions telling your body what to do. In the case of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, it tells the body what it needs to produce to fight COVID-19. In essence, it is the code that runs the vaccine.
Like the motherboard, the first output that noticed the code posted on GitHub, points out, the entire repository on the site has only 4 pages. In addition, the first half of the post is just a summary of scientists about what they did. The last two pages of the post on Github are the ones that contain the entire mRNA sequence. Just two pages!
The scientists, Andrew Fire and Massa Shoura, explained part of the process in an email to Motherboard. For example, they did not technically reverse engineer the vaccine to obtain the mRNA sequence.
Fire and Shoura also claim that they were able to do their job without removing a single vaccine from distribution. The two scientists needed only a small amount of leftovers in bottles that are usually discarded after an individual is vaccinated. They even applied for permission to keep used bottles from the FDA.
Scientists say they contacted Moderna before publishing the mRNA sequence, but got no response. According to Fire and Shoura, the FDA, however, released the decision to “share the sequence with the community”.
It should be noted that, while providing public access to this information is excellent for educational and research purposes, it will not facilitate any home version of the COVID-19 vaccine. There is still a lot to do to make vaccines that remain inaccessible to the public.
As the motherboard mentions, COVID-19 vaccines have been reverse engineered before. In late 2020, the founder of PowerDNS, an open source software provider, was able to discover the mRNA sequence of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine using only information that was available online.