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From The Memory Hole

Elon Musk partners with Gates-funded biotech company to produce ‘mRNA microfactories’ for COVID-19 vaccine

As “major Pentagon contractor” Elon Musk attempts to rebrand himself as some kind of anti-establishment rebel, here’s another bit of semi-obscured recent history:

On July 2, 2020, Reuters reported that Musk had announced that Tesla was “building mobile molecule printers to help make the potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by CureVac,” an “unlisted German company.”

CureVac, the article said, characterizes these “printers” as “portable, automated mRNA production units,” and Musk described them as “mRNA microfactories.

The company is “backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation” and is “a pioneer of the so-called messenger RNA approach, which is also pursued by BioNTech and its partner Pfizer as well as Moderna,” said Reuters.

They aren’t just any old “backer” though: A few months earlier, Forbes had reported that “the Gates Foundation is the second biggest shareholder in the company.”

A Brief History of CureVac

To get a more clear picture of what’s going on here, let’s look at an abridged timeline of some of the relevant history surrounding this company in the lead up to 2020.

2013: The Gates Foundation partners with CureVac to “develop vaccines against malaria and universal influenza” (Forbes)

2014: CureVac announces “an exclusive license agreement with Sanofi Pasteur” to “develop and commercialize an mRNA-based vaccine against an undisclosed pathogen.”

March 2015: The Gates Foundation provides $52 million out of a $76 million CureVac funding round, making it—as reported by Forbes at the time—the foundation’s “largest ever equity investment,” reflecting “a new strategy of not just giving grants but supporting and having a stake in businesses.” Forbes says that CureVac is “pioneering the use of natural and chemically unmodified mRNA as a data carrier to instruct the human body to produce its own proteins capable of fighting a wide range of diseases,” and that the company’s “novel technology” is “the broadest and most advanced mRNA therapeutic platform.” From the same article:

“If we can teach the body to create its own natural defenses, we can revolutionize the way we treat and prevent diseases,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in a prepared statement. “Technologies like mRNA give us confidence to place big bets for the future.  We are pleased to partner with CureVac who has been pioneering this technology.”

Sept 2015: CureVac receives $25 million from IAVI (International AIDS Vaccine Initiative), another Gates-funded organization going back many years, such as in 1999 when the Gates Foundation granted $25 million to IAVI—“the largest charitable gift in the history of the AIDS pandemic” at the time—or 2001 when the Gates Foundation announced at the World Economic Forum that it was granting IAVI another $100 million.

Jan 2017: CEPI (the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) is co-founded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who also contribute to the $460 million of initial funding. The organization is “launched at” the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Its other co-founders and/or funders include the WEF, the Wellcome Trust, and governments of India, Norway, Germany, and Japan, and it is “supported by several leading pharmaceutical companies” including “GSK, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer.”

Feb 2019: CEPI awards CureVac a $34 million contract to advance their “disruptive, transportable mRNA vaccine manufacturing platform.”

March 11, 2020: WHO declares Covid-19 a “pandemic”

March 19, 2020: California becomes the first state to “order” its residents to stay home. “[Governor] Newsom said that most retail shops, including indoor malls, are being ordered shut across the state. Also closed are most corporate offices.”

July 2, 2020: Musk announces that his company is “building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others,” claiming that “synthentic RNA (and DNA) . . . basically makes the solution to many diseases a software problem.”

July 3, 2020: The website Electrik reveals that CureVac and Tesla had actually filed a joint patent for a “bioreactor for RNA in vitro transcription” over a year earlier, in June of 2019. The patent specifically mentioned that “a portable RNA production apparatus” would be “advantageous” in “the context of pandemic scenarios.” According to Google Patents, the patent was published on January 2, 2020, less than three weeks before “the first laboratory-confirmed case” of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported by the CDC.

July 6, 2020: CureVac receives a “nearly $85 million loan from the EU to expand manufacturing” for its “mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine.”

Sept 1, 2020: Musk “quietly” visits CureVac headquarters in Germany. “According to local reports, the visit was to discuss collaboration between CureVac and Grohmann Automation, a local engineering firm acquired by Tesla in 2017, about building RNA microfactories, a bioprinting technology that could help accelerate the development and production of COVID-19 vaccines.” (Observer)

Nov 9, 2020: Musk tweets: “Tesla makes the RNA Bioreactor that can make vaccines / cures. CureVac has version 2 in use. Version 3 is under development.”

Dec 11, 2020: FDA grants emergency use authorization to Pfizer/BioNTec mRNA jab.

Dec 18, 2020: FDA grants emergency use authorization to Moderna’s mRNA jab.

Dec 26, 2020: Tesla’s Director of AI tweets that “the mRNA vaccines are a direct hacking of Life’s assembly code for the Spike protein + all of its headers, metadata, + tweaking it to be more stable and likely to evade the immune system defenses 👌👌” and shares an “excellent” thread that he says describes this “nicely.” In response, Musk says: “Vaccines are just the start. It’s also capable in theory of curing almost anything. Turns medicine into a software & simulation problem.”

April 7, 2021: Musk tweets: “To be clear, I do support vaccines in general & covid vaccines specifically. The science is unequivocal,” adding that “In very rare cases, there is an allergic reaction, but this is easily addressed with an EpiPen.” In another tweet a few minutes later, he says “A tidal wave of vaccine is being produced!” Asked what he thinks the “safest” vaccine is, Musk says: “Probably J&J, but BioNtech & Moderna are good too. Some debate imo as to whether a second synthetic mRNA shot is really needed, but the first is a no-brainer.”

April 9, 2021: Musk tweets about CureVac: “Sounds like they’re a few months away from regulatory approval” and says that “a tidal wave of vaccine is coming this summer.” He ends up deleting the tweet.

June 17, 2021: A large study finds the CureVac’s Covid vaccine was “47% effective” in trials, “well short of the high bar set by other messenger RNA shots.” However, Fortune reports that—according to CureVac’s CEO—the company will still “finish its trial and plans to gain approval.”

Oct 12, 2021: CureVac announces its “strategic decision to focus its COVID-19 vaccine development towards the development of second-generation mRNA vaccine candidates in collaboration with GSK and to withdraw its first-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate.”

Dec 13, 2021: After being named their “Person of the Year,” Musk tells Time that, although he opposes mandates, he and his eligible children are vaccinated. “The science is unequivocal,” he says once again.

Aug 18, 2022: CureVac announces the start of a Phase 1 study of their “modified COVID-19 mRNA vaccine candidate,” which is meant to be “administered as a booster dose to previous COVID-19 vaccination.” It was developed “in collaboration with” GSK (formerly GlaxoSmithKlein), and “is designed to specifically protect against the Omicron variant.”

Dec 28, 2022: In response to a thread by Peter Diamandis about some of “the top breakthroughs” of the past 100 years, which mentions mRNA vaccines and Tesla’s “Optimus” robot, Musk says “Synthetic mRNA has incredible potential!”

Image Credit: Maurizio Pesce (CC BY 2.0). May be modified from original.
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