Sophisticated espionage seems to be taking place behind the scenes to get information on the best candidates for the coronavirus vaccine.
On Thursday, Reuters reported that hackers linked to the Chinese government were targeted Modern (NASDAQ: MRNA). Reuters quoted an unnamed “U.S. security officer” as its source. Many observers believe that Modern has the most promising candidate for the vaccine at the moment, mRNA 1273.
Modern confirmed to Reuters that at some point earlier this year, the FBI warned the company about as much as possible “information awareness activities” by a group of Chinese hackers. These activities cover a range of espionage activities, including examining online networks for vulnerabilities. It is unclear how successful, if anything, they have been in their efforts.
Apparently, these hackers include two unnamed Chinese nationals who were accused last week of exposing the United States Among their targets were three companies – again, unnamed – involved in the investigation of the coronavirus. One of the companies is Massachusetts headquarters biotechnology, which matches the profile of Modern.
Modern spokesman Ray Jordan told Reuters that his company “is still very vigilant to potential cybersecurity threats, maintaining an internal team, external support services, and good working relationships with ‘external authorities to continuously assess threats and protect our valuable information.’
The source of the article did not provide further details about the alleged hacking. The Chinese government has not yet commented on the report.
Modern continues its relatively rapid development of 1273 mRNA, which uses messenger RNA to produce a response from the body’s immune system. On Monday the vaccine candidate entered his phase 3 clinical trial.
Although a number of candidates for the coronavirus vaccine are developed, none have been approved for use.