Vaccines stop the spread of millions of infections and save many lives yearly. In recent years, there has been significant progress in the development of mRNA vaccines. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA therapeutics have been on the rise due to the success of mRNA vaccines in treating the disease.
mRNA vaccines use a genetic code to instruct the body’s cells to create proteins that train the immune system. An advantage of mRNA therapeutics is that production time is much quicker than antibodies and protein-based drugs.
The potential of mRNA vaccines
The implications of mRNA technology are astounding. Many organisations are researching this technology for use against malaria/rabies, influenza, Zika, HIV and cancer. Alternative vaccine methods involve growing and/or producing proteins in cells, which is a process that can take much longer. mRNA vaccines are usually safe and less toxic, as they do not integrate into our cells’ DNA and naturally degrade in the body after injection. Despite the success of mRNA vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists persist to work on making the technology more effective.
Regarding production, mRNA vaccines have several benefits, such as low contamination from synthetic material use and in vitro development. Notably, mRNA vaccines can be modified. Therefore, this allows it to respond to rising mutant/resistant variants.
The potential of mRNA technology stretches far beyond a pandemic. Big pharma companies such as Pfizer plan to use it against seasonal flu, which mutates continuously and kills a significant number of people globally on a yearly basis. On the other hand, BioNTech is developing personalised therapies that would make on-demand proteins linked with specific tumours to train the body to fight against advanced cancer.
Considering these benefits and potential future developments, it proves mRNA vaccines to be a critical technology to fight infectious disease outbreaks and is crucial in minimising the impact of future pandemics.
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