An approach to mRNA vaccine development in the wake of COVID-19

Brad Sorenson, CEO of Providence Therapeutics, shares the future developments and exciting potential of mRNA therapies, including improved efficacy and wider access to vaccines, and future promise for cancer treatment.

THE PAST TWENTY years have seen an enormous increase in the use of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) as a therapeutic modality, particularly for vaccines against infectious diseases. Following scientific advances that made mRNA more tractable for research and development purposes – such as high-throughput in vitro transcription techniques, modified nucleotides to regulate immune stimulation and half-life, and reliable intracellular delivery methods – mRNA-based vaccines have become arguably the most promising vaccine technology to date, having demonstrated enormous benefit over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. mRNA vaccines possess certain inherent advantages over vaccines based on viral vectors, inactivated or live attenuated viruses, or protein subunits, while conferring comparable efficacy in terms of robust immune response. In terms of safety, mRNA is not independently capable of causing infection and its immunogenicity is limited by its relatively short half-life. mRNA vaccines can also be re-dosed without risk of the dangerous immune response that is seen in some viral vector-based vaccines. mRNA vaccine products can also be scaled far more quickly and cost‑effectively than other vaccines, as their components are relatively simple and inexpensive to synthesise at high yield and purity.