"We have in fact demonstrated in many different disease therapeutic areas and vaccines that this kind of technology could, in fact, create a whole new portion of the medical repertoire we have to fight disease," Afeyan told CNN on Friday.
Moderna is one of the companies to pioneer mRNA technology its vaccine is based on. Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine also uses this approach.
How it works: Messenger RNA is a single strand of the genetic code that cells can "read" and use to make a protein. In the case of this vaccine, the mRNA instructs cells in the body to make the particular piece of the virus's spike protein. Then the immune system sees it, recognizes it as foreign and is prepared to attack when actual infection occurs.
"We wanted to do the work to enable such a molecule to become a medicine," Afeyan said. "The difference is if you're dealing with an information molecule, a code molecule, by changing the code you ought to be able to make any therapeutic or vaccine you want, that was the dream."
He says this technology will change people's perception of how long it should take to make a vaccine, adding that the "Covid-19 vaccine example will forge a new path."
"Perhaps not to always be able to go from zero to a vaccine in less than a year, but certainly the five to ten years it used to take was somewhat predicated on older technology and also, I'll say, the assumption that it has to take that long, which we no longer have to make," he said.
Some context: The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met to discuss Moderna's vaccine on Thursday, and is expected to authorize it for emergency use in the coming days. Once it does, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says the federal government has nearly 5.9 million doses ready to be shipped.