Shostack + Friends Blog



microscopic rendering of a COVID-19 spike protein

You may have noticed that my end of the year posts are all science focused. Today, a set of resources on the COVID vaccines.

First, the FDA has authorized two vaccines for emergency use. The review memoranda (Pfizer, Moderna) are all sorts of fascinating. As the kids say, TL;DR: both vaccines are safe and no meaningful side effects were seen in testing approximately 44,000 and 30,400 test subjects.

There's also a fascinating relationship to computer security where the vaccines work because, as Meredith Patterson says, "a parser differential between how the immune system interprets an unfamiliar token (the đź”± nucleoside) and how ribosomes interpret it, and a subtle semantic bug arising from disparate handling of different representations of an ambiguously representable parse result." (She says bug, I say exploitable feature. Ambiguous representation coding is probably a helpful redundancy.) She's looking at the highly readable Reverse Engineering the source code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine. You should, too.

(Image: Searching the COVID-19 spike protein for a potential vaccine, April 24, 2020, University of Georgia)