Watch Race for the Vaccine: A Special Talkback Event

Written by: The Exchange


The story of the pandemic is, among many things, a story of scientific triumph. In a timely documentary from CNN Films, we are granted rare, real-time access to the elite scientists who put their lives on the line to take on one of the biggest scientific, logistical and public health challenges in the history of modern medicine. Produced by Wingspan Productions and the Global Health Reporting Center in collaboration with HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, the film followed top scientists at Pfizer/BioNTech, NIH/Moderna, The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, The University of Oxford/AstraZeneca, and the University of Queensland/CSL, filming them during the pandemic as they race to create and test new vaccines, battle constant fatigue and stress, deal with both incredibly positive and heartbreakingly negative results, and make massive supply chain decisions with stunningly little information and not a second to waste. At stake: nothing less than the fate of humanity as we know it.

Their dedication paid off with the emergency approval of multiple effective vaccines in record time, but the story is not over yet, and questions about what comes next still abound. Join us for the talkback, where CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who also narrated and produced the film, will moderate a panel featuring filmmaker Janet Tobias and NIH immunologist Dr. Barney Graham.

Special introduction from Sean B. Carroll, Head of Tangled Bank Studios and Vice President for Science Education at HHMI.


Barney S. Graham is Deputy Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Center. His primary interests are vaccine development for viral diseases, viral pathogenesis, mechanisms of immunity, and pandemic preparedness. His laboratory explores the structural basis for antibody-mediated viral neutralization, investigates basic mechanisms by which T cells affect viral clearance and immunopathology, and has developed novel vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, Zika, paramyxoviruses, and coronaviruses including the first COVID-19 vaccine and monoclonal antibody to enter clinical testing and that have now achieved Emergency Use Authorization.

Janet Tobias is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker. Tobias started her film and television career at CBS’ 60 Minutes as Diane Sawyer’s associate producer. After working at the networks for a little over a decade, she moved to PBS where she created, and executive-produced the Emmy Award-winning PBS program Life 360. In 2017 her prescient film about the 21st century threat of pandemics, Unseen Enemy, was released at the Copenhagen and Beijing International Film Festivals. She is currently finishing a Nat Geo film on Dr. Tony Fauci, which will be released in the fall. She was the executive producer of Race for the Vaccine.


Sanjay Gupta is the multiple Emmy®-award winning chief medical correspondent for CNN. Sanjay, a practicing neurosurgeon, plays an integral role in CNN’s reporting on health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows domestically and internationally, and regularly contributes to Since 2001, Sanjay has covered some of the most important health stories in the United States and around the world. On March 9, 2020, he penned an op-ed announcing the network would refer to the novel coronavirus outbreak as a “pandemic,” ahead of both the WHO and the CDC. Throughout 2020 into 2021, Sanjay reaffirmed his role as a trusted guide to viewers worldwide on navigating between facts and fiction surrounding COVID-19 and the pandemic.

Special Introduction:

Sean B. Carroll is an award-winning scientist, writer, educator, and film producer. He is Vice President for Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Balo-Simon Chair of Biology at the University of Maryland, and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Sean has received the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Sciences, been a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction, and earned one Emmy and two Emmy nominations for documentary films. His most recent book is A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You.

The statements and opinions expressed in this piece are those of the event participants and do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for this event or of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.