Moderna’s press release announcing the initial success in its Phase I trials of a Covid-19 vaccine was one of the main reasons the Dow Jones Industrials shot up by nearly a thousand points on Monday.

Moderna, a Boston-based ex-unicorn that has successfully developed and marketed as many drugs as you have, turned itself from a $6 billion midcap stock to a $27 billion large cap stock over the space of a few months and a handful of press releases.

Moderna's market capitalization graph
Moderna’s market capitalization soared from under $8 billion to nearly $30 billion in a matter of weeks.YCHARTS.COM

Whether Moderna’s vaccine shows efficacy in any of its clinical trials – let alone is able to be mass-produced as quickly and in the volumes the world desperately needs – is beside the point. The great news about the Moderna announcement is the breathtaking scientific progress it represents and what this progress says about our civilization’s ability to survive a threat even more profound than Covid-19.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate does not just represent a new way to combine a beaker full of chemicals, it is a revolutionary therapy that aims to engineer a molecule known as Messenger RNA (mRNA). mRNA drugs establish microscopic vaccine factories within human cells; these factories allow the subject’s own body to “naturally” produce the antibodies to fight the virus (see also Bill Gates’s explanation in his essay, The first modern pandemic).

The total number of mRNA drugs saving people’s lives today is zero, despite some promising advances. Scientific conferences to discuss mRNA therapies only started in 2013 — it’s that new of a field.

It is the breathtaking rapidity with which an entirely new field of human scientific endeavor has sprung into prominence that makes Moderna’s mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine such a wonderful illustration of the potential of human genius and adaptability.

This genius and adaptability and its expression in the economic sphere – capitalism – are the only things that will allow us to survive and thrive during an age of climate change.

Do not get too misty-eyed, my loyal, Chicago School readers, at the mention of the glory of the capitalistic system. Much of Moderna’s drug pipeline – including the Phase I trials for the Covid-19 vaccine – has been supported through grants from an alphabet soup of government agencies.

The public – that is you and me – also funds some astounding scientific work at Argonne National Laboratories. I tuned into an online lecture last night about the work Argonne is doing to identify the structure and inner workings of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, find promising drug candidates, and model the spread of the disease under different quarantine policies.

Some of this work is powered by Argonne’s particle accelerator – which provides X-rays a thousand times more powerful than those your cat receives at the vet’s – and some by Argonne’s amazing supercomputing resources.

Listening to the Argonne lecture, I was struck by how much mental horsepower in Chicago and around the globe is being directed at solving the threat posed by Covid-19.

Argonne has been applying its supercomputing resources to artificial intelligence routines searching for prospective treatments for Covid-19 and to modeling disease spread in the Chicago area.ARGONNE NATIONAL LABS (ANL.GOV)

Public and private organizations across the earth have united to combat an immediate mortal threat to our species through human intelligence, hard work, and creativity.

How great it would be if – one of these days soon – we get around to using the same model of concerted, public / private effort to address the issue of climate change.

Intelligent investors take note.