The miracle of mRNA will drive medical advances for everyone

mRNA is a of the first molecules of life. Although identified six decades ago as a carrier of the protein blueprint in living cells, its medicinal potential has long been underestimated. mRNA doesn’t look promising—too unstable, too weak in potency, and too pro-inflammatory.

successful developed the first mRNA vaccine fighting Covid-19 in 2020 is an unprecedented achievement in the history of medicine. That success builds on decades of iteration, fueled by independent contributions from scientists around the world.

We loved mRNA in the ’90s for its versatility, ability to stimulate the immune system, and safety—once its biological mission completes, the molecule breaks down completely, leaving no residue behind. traces in the body. We have discovered ways to exponentially improve the properties of mRNA, increasing its stability and effectiveness, as well as its ability to deliver it to the right immune cells in the body. That progress has allowed us to create effective mRNA vaccines that, when given in small amounts to humans, induce strong immune responses. Furthermore, we have established rapid, scalable processes to produce novel vaccines for clinical application within weeks. The result is the breakthrough of mRNA in the fight against Covid-19.

The potential of an mRNA vaccine goes beyond even the coronavirus. Now we want to use this technology to tackle two of the oldest and deadliest pathogens in the world: malaria and tuberculosis. Worldwide, there are about 10 million new cases of TB each year. For malaria, the medical need is even higher: approximately 230 million cases of malaria were reported in the WHO Africa region in 2020, with most deaths occurring. in children under 5 years old.

The convergence of medical advances—from next-generation sequencing to technologies for characterizing immune responses on large data sets—intensifies discovery of ideal vaccine targets. our thought. Science has also made progress in understanding how malaria and tuberculosis pathogens hide and evade the immune system, providing insights into how to fight them.

An ongoing revolution in computational protein structure prediction enables the modeling of three-dimensional structures of proteins. This is helping us to decipher regions of these proteins that are optimal targets for vaccine development.

One of the good things about mRNA technology is that it allows us to rapidly test hundreds of vaccine targets. Furthermore, we can combine multiple mRNAs—each encoding a different pathogen antigen—in a single vaccine. For the first time, an mRNA-based vaccine has become possible to teach the human immune system to fight against multiple vulnerable targets of pathogens. In 2023, we plan to begin clinical trials of the first mRNA vaccine candidates against malaria and tuberculosis that combine known and novel targets. If successful, this effort could change the way we prevent these diseases and possibly contribute to their elimination.

Medical innovations can only make a difference to people around the world when they are available on a global scale. The production of mRNA is complex and involves tens of thousands of steps, making technology transfer resource-intensive, time-consuming, and error-prone. To overcome this bottleneck, we developed a high-tech solution called BioNTainer—a modular, transportable mRNA production facility. This innovation can support decentralized and scalable vaccine production worldwide by leapfrogging to scalable, digitized, and automated mRNA production capabilities. We expect the first facility to be operational in Rwanda in 2023.

We predict that 2023 will bring us these and other milestones that can help shape a healthier future, one that can thrive on potential. of mRNA and the promise of democratizing access to advanced drugs. Now is the time to promote that change.


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