Kathrin Jansen has spent decades of her career thinking outside the box to produce difficult vaccines, and this time is no different: the Pfizer scientist spearheaded the production of a 94% effective vaccine against COVID-19 – using an unproven technology.
Led by Jansen, American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has developed, alongside German biotech company BioNTech, a COVID-19 vaccine using the so far unproven tech called messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) to program the body’s immune system.
“I think of Jansen as a capable scientist to lead something like this,” says Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group of Jansen’s efforts to produce a market-ready vaccine and considering her long history of success in the field.
Faithful to its desire to stay out of the political fray surrounding the pandemic, Pfizer has not taken any funding from the federal government for research and development of its vaccine. “We were never part of the White House’s vaccine initiative Operation Warp Speed,” says Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer’s head of vaccine research and development. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”