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In Longshot, investigative journalist David Heath takes readers inside the small group of scientists whose groundbreaking work was once largely dismissed but whose feat will now eclipse the importance of Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine in medical history. With never-before-reported details, Heath reveals how these scientists overcame countless obstacles to give the world an unprecedented head start when we needed a COVID-19 vaccine.

The story really begins in the 1990s, with a series of discoveries that were timed perfectly to prepare us for the worst pandemic since 1918. Readers will meet Katalin Karikó, who made it possible to use messenger RNA in vaccines but struggled for years just to hang on to her job. There’s also Derrick Rossi, who leveraged Karikó’s work to found Moderna but was eventually expelled from his company. And then there’s Barney Graham at the National Institutes of Health, who had a career-long obsession with solving the riddle of why two toddlers died in a vaccine trial in 1966, a tragedy that ultimately led to a critical breakthrough in vaccine science.
With both foresight and luck, Graham and these other crucial scientists set the course for a coronavirus vaccine years before COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan, China. The author draws on hundreds of hours of interviews with key players to tell the definitive story about how the race to create the vaccine sparked a revolution in medical science.