The COVID-19 vaccine that was dreamed up and developed by Massachusetts-based Moderna will also be manufactured in the state.

"The vast majority of the U.S. production will be done in Massachusetts," Moderna co-founder Noubar Afeyan told GBH News. Afeyan is the founder and CEO of Flagship Pioneering, a biotech venture capital firm that founded Moderna and more than 50 other life science and technology startups.

Moderna applied this week for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration. With an up-front purchase agreement from the federal government, Moderna is already producing the vaccine at its own production facility in Norwood, Mass. Moderna has also partnered with contract manufacturer Lonza, which is producing the vaccine at a facility in Portsmouth, N.H.

When the pandemic hit, Afeyan said, Moderna was able to move quickly to ramp up research and production.

"We were able to attract hundreds of people in the middle of a pandemic to join the company — beyond the people we already have — so we could ramp up production," Afeyan said. "I don't know where else you can do that. You might be able to do that in little pockets here and there. But Boston, Massachusetts is, I would argue, the only place where this could have been developed."

The biotechnological innovation behind Moderna's vaccine has been the company's focus for roughly a decade: programming messenger RNA to trigger a person's immune system into producing antibodies.

"We recognized that if we could somehow make a molecule that could essentially have a code for any protein we wanted, and put that into a patient or a subject safely, so that their own cells could convert that into a protein . . . that would be a remarkable new capability," Afeyan said. "We didn't have any way of doing it. We didn't have any proof it could be done. But we set out on a voyage."

That voyage led them to use the genetic sequence of the coronavirus — provided by China — to program a code in messenger RNA to trigger an immune response. This week Moderna announced the vaccine showed a 94% efficacy in phase 3 trials and they applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization.

"We kind of kicked the project off in May, and to be in production in July is light speed,” said Mark Caswell, head of engineering and facilities at Lonza's site in Portsmouth. “Probably, I would argue nobody's ever done it that fast."

Another Lonza facility in Switzerland is expecting to begin production soon. Caswell says it was helpful for his team in Portsmouth to be so close to the Moderna people in Cambridge. Even in a pandemic, that face-to-face interaction with Moderna's people helped speed things up.

Before the vaccine gets to the public, though, there could be other delays.

"There's always a bottleneck," said Gary Pisano of Harvard Business School. Pisano’s an expert in supply chains, who's previously done consulting work for Moderna and other companies founded by Flagship Pioneering. "Your supply chain is only as good as the weakest link. So if you, say, get to the end of the supply chain and you say, 'wait a minute, we don't have enough people to administer the vaccine.' Well, then that's it. That's the capacity. I don't care how much manufacturing capacity you have around the world, you're only going to be able to give that amount."

"I'm sure there are hundreds of bottlenecks, and there have been that for all the whole way," Afeyan agreed. “I think that what it takes to develop and then eventually distribute a vaccine at this scale is without any remote precedent — which can either concern us or it could make us humble to the fact that so many things are having to go right for us to make progress, that we just have to keep working at it."

One thing that could make distribution of the Moderna vaccine easier is that it won't require the same kind of ultra-cold storage as the Pfizer version.

Another Harvard Business School professor, Willy Shih, said it's all the hype that has him worried. Shih said people are getting their expectations up that this vaccine will be a silver bullet.

"It's a tour de force in terms of the scientific development," Shih said. "But we're developing an expectation in the American public that once I get vaccinated, everything is going to be fine, I can go back to bars, I can go back to indoor restaurants for dinner and stuff like that."

And he pointed out, there's still a lot more research to be done. The initial studies, for example, have focused exclusively on adults.

Afeyan said Moderna expects to begin trials in teenagers this month, and will test the vaccine in children sometime in 2021. "We're not going to be out of this for many, many quarters to come to get to such a high level of vaccine adoption that we can consider this disease, kind of, defeated," he said.

These days, Afeyan said, the news is full of experts warning people not to let their guard down, and raising questions about the long-term effectiveness of a vaccine.

Once Moderna's done its job, and a safe and effective vaccine is widely available, Afeyan said the challenge is going to be making sure people feel comfortable taking it. "I think people have too low expectations. They have been completely paralyzed and confused about whether technology and a vaccine can help them."