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The pandemic crisis has illuminated a stark reality that innovators, particularly those in biotech, have long been aware of: The world is filled with great ideas that don’t have the impact they might because how to develop and scale them isn’t considered until it is either absolutely essential — or too late — to do so.

The mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 represent a perfect example of this principle. While the technology behind mRNA vaccines was developed more than 40 years ago, it took the emergency of a global pandemic for researchers to receive the support needed to bring their concept through Food and Drug Administration authorization and approval and to market. Imagine how many people might have benefited from this technology — how many lives might have been saved — had it been developed and applied earlier.


Now, as the U.S. finds itself at the cusp of so many other innovative approaches to developing solutions to treat diseases and improve lives — including new advancements and applications in my field of nanomedicine — government regulators and other crucial gatekeepers face the challenge of building a better on-ramp for innovation. Successful examples of such efforts are already underway, such as the Cancer Moonshot initiative, supported by the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act in December 2016. To date, the National Cancer Institute’s substantial investment in the Moonshot has benefited more than 240 research projects across more than 70 distinct areas of cancer study.

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