Over the past few years, there has been a flurry of investment in messenger RNA (mRNA), a potential type of medicine which when injected instructs ribosomes inside cells to produce a desired therapeutic protein.
AstraZeneca has invested heavily in Moderna Therapeutics which itself is building a $110m mRNA therapeutics production site, while Janssen, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi Pasteur have all inked multi-million dollar deals with mRNA vaccine firm CureVac.
And according to Sanofi Pasteur’s head of global research Nicholas Jackson, mRNA technology could be game-changing within the vaccine development and manufacturing sector.
While he told a packed room at the Bioprocessing International (BPI) European Summit in Amsterdam yesterday that it is difficult to know what the next big thing will be in the vaccines space, he said it is ill-advised to ignore mRNA.
“It’s kind of one those things that you can’t afford to not be involved in, because if it is the next platform it is a complete gamechanger. It’s going to be like PCR [Polymerase chain reaction] and change molecular biology,” he told delegates. “That’s the reason why there has been a frenzy of hundreds of millions invested in messenger RNA technology and there are now over 15 players.”
PCR is a reliable DNA amplification tool, now well-established in the molecular biology space and used for highly specific diagnosis of infectious diseases identification of non-cultivatable or slow-growing microorganisms.
mRNA vaccines scaleability
“Through either chemical modification or changes to the UTR regions, now we can produce stably and consistently messenger RNA and with the right formulation that’s what we think is key now to have the right liquid nanoparticles that can get that negatively charged molecule across the cell membrane,” Jackson said.
After that, “your own body is the fermenter, the production site of the vaccines,” he added.
Sanofi Pasteur’s CureVac partnership is for an undisclosed pathogen, but Jackson said using such technology for an influenza vaccine could speed up and dramatically reduce the complexities of production.
“I think something that could fit in your garage could supply the entire influenza market, that’s the scale of the game-changer that this technology can produce.
“And it’s easily adaptable and extremely fast from a flu vaccine perspective, within weeks you can have something ready and produced and taken forward into GMP campaigning.”