Is mRNA technology the key to a more effective flu vaccine?Some scientists think it is
The COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer and Moderna uses synthetic messenger RNA, a technology that was considered experimental before the pandemic.
With the vaccine successfully reducing the risk of illness, researchers are now considering its use against other viruses, including influenza.
In the COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA Instructs cells to replicate the unique spike protein of the coronavirus, triggering an immune response without direct contact with the virus.
In contrast, Most flu vaccines It is developed by culturing influenza virus in mammalian cells or eggs. The virus is then killed or inactivated. When vaccinated, the protein produced triggers the body’s immune response.
But it can take up to six months to develop an annual vaccine.And the vaccine is usually just 40-60% effective Because scientists must make educated guesses about which influenza strains will be dominant in the upcoming season.
On the other hand, less than one month after determining the genetic sequence of a new influenza virus strain, an mRNA vaccine can be developed. The Verge report.
Due to the use of mRNA vaccines Synthetic genetic material Scientists say that they can wait to identify the most important influenza strains, rather than live viruses, before developing a vaccine each year. In this way, the vaccine will be a better match and increase its effectiveness.
Moderna announced on Wednesday that it has begun administering to volunteers in a potential mRNA flu vaccine study. Sanofi and Translate Bio have already started clinical trials of mRNA influenza vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech first announced plans for such injections in 2018.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that the pharmaceutical company hopes to eventually develop a vaccine that can target multiple viruses at once, including influenza, RSV and COVID-19.
“Our vision is to develop an mRNA combination vaccine so that people can get an injection every autumn to effectively protect the most problematic respiratory viruses,” Bancel Said in a statement“We look forward to advancing the core model of preventive mRNA vaccines so that we can continue to have an impact on global public health.”
This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention It is estimated that influenza causes 9 to 45 million illnesses each year. Since 2010, it has caused 810,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year.
Pfizer Chief Science Officer Phil Dormitzer (Phil Dormitzer) said: “Every year when the flu vaccine comes out, there will always be some lucky draws.” Said before“People are always worried about whether they can provide enough supply in time during the peak season and how effective it is. If we can reduce or eliminate mismatches year after year, this will be a great opportunity to help prevent flu disease and death. “
Dormitzer speculates that when people are injected with an mRNA flu vaccine, their muscle cells will become a vaccine “factory”, stimulating a strong immune response. He said that this is a way closer to simulating what happens when the human immune system actually fights infection.