Tesla Is Developing a COVID-19 Vaccine Printer

By Elijah Labby Monday, November 16, 2020

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk announced that the company is developing a vaccine printer intended to produce COVID-19 medication in partnership with biotech company CureVac.

The effort is a change of pace for the automotive and solar energy product manufacturer, whose line of electric automobiles has brought renewable-energy-based transportation to a wide range of consumers.

Tesla and CureVac’s machine prints RNA — DNA’s messenger molecule. CureVac says they have developed a way to stabilize RNA and use it to fight disease. Musk has spoken about working with CureVac since last year, as well as emphasized the value of RNA as early as February of 2020.

Because Tesla generates about $20 billion in revenue annually, Musk does not anticipate huge gains from the printers. However, he says it’s bigger than that.

“I do expect this to become an important product for the world, but probably not financially material for Tesla,” Musk tweeted.

The revenue that the company does make will be in the manufacturing process, where Tesla will build manufacturing plants across the world for easier distribution.

A Look at the Numbers

Since CureVac went public in August, its worth has risen astronomically. On its first day, Forbes reported, CureVac’s share price shot up by about 250%. According to Forbes, this brought the company’s value to over $12 billion, which constitutes a significant overvaluation.

The hype, however, is not unheard of, especially in 2020, a year full of soaring highs and significant lows. Investors have been eager to support just about any company developing a vaccine this year, from Moderna to AstraZeneca.

Tesla’s worth has continued to grow despite the coronavirus, as has Musk’s net worth. In the previous year, Car and Driver reports, Musk’s wealth has grown by nearly $88 billion — he is now worth about $115 billion. Similarly, Tesla’s stock has jumped by 500% since the beginning of the year, and about 1,000% since the same time last year.

Ironically, in recent days Musk himself has revealed that two of the four COVID-19 tests he took have come back positive. He called this development suspect and questioned the results.

“Something extremely bogus is going on,” he tweeted. “Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive.”

If Musk has indeed contracted COVID-19, which is not unlikely considering his grueling international travel schedule necessitated by his leadership role in nearly a half dozen companies, it may give him a new impetus to invest in anti-COVID-19 technology.

The Usefulness of RNA Vaccines in Fighting COVID-19

CureVac’s vaccine is merely one of several RNA vaccines currently in development. And as the world waits with bated breath for a potential cure for COVID-19, perhaps one of the most hotly-anticipated is being developed by Pfizer.

Walter Isaacson, the award-winning author of biographies “Steve Jobs,” “Leonardo Da Vinci,” and five others, wrote in the Washington Post that his Pfizer vaccine trial was a “miracle for genetic medicine.”

He said the difference between the Pfizer vaccine and traditional vaccines — the former implants a piece of genetic code whereas the latter contains a weakened version of the virus in question — is significant enough to be remembered as a crucial turn in the “biotech revolution.”

“It is another wondrous miracle from a biotech revolution in which knowledge of genetic coding will become as important as digital coding and molecules will become the new microchips,” he writes.

RNA, Isaacson writes, can be reprogrammed in a matter of days to combat new illnesses post-COVID-19. This possibility would be a revolution in medicine and has the power to reduce vaccine development wait times from years to a minuscule fraction of that.

Additionally, Pfizer announced this week that in clinical trials, their vaccine was more than 90% effective in combating COVID-19. Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told MSNBC that this development is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”

What we don’t know is the effect the virus has had on those who received it. This information includes comorbidities and side effects. These are expected to be made public when the data is published. For now, it seems the United States is well on its way to rolling out its fastest-ever vaccine and hopefully moving beyond COVID-19.

About the Author

Headshot for author Elijah Labby

Elijah Labby is a graduate of the National Journalism Center. He has previously written for Broadband Breakfast, a technology and internet policy website.

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