Teaching the body to make its own medicine
Moderna Inc., a biotechnology firm founded in 2010, has been dedicated to researching and developing a novel technique that allows the body to learn to make its own medicine messenger RNA (mRNA).
mRNA has encoding information to produce a specific protein. This biological function makes it unique it can be used as a preventive and therapeutic molecule depending on the protein it encodes.
From a pharmaceutical and public health perspective, this technology platform has been established to safely deliver mRNA to the body, manufacture it, and scale-up, making it feasible to perform various kinds of mRNA codes; versatility is required in situations of emergency, e.g. a global health danger.
Moderna''s mRNA technology platform was established when the COVID-19 epidemic was declared in 2020. As the company''s associate director, it identified many technical problems. Today, it was able to scale-up and implement the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine SpikeVax for worldwide distribution.
SpikeVax was approved in 70 countries in 2021, and the vaccine has received around 145.99 million doses globally.
Moderna''s mRNA platform will be integrated with IAVI''s experience in product development to speed the discovery and development of vaccines and antibody therapies. Some of these programs are already in clinical testing, while others are continuing through pre-clinical development.
Molly Campbell (MC): We are now in a mRNA era. Can you talk about how the mRNA technology landscape has evolved over the years, for science to reach this revolution? Are there any key obstacles or breakthroughs that stand out?
Sunny Himansu (SH): Yes, the spotlight is certainly on mRNA technology, but mRNA is not new to the scientific and research communities. These 60-year-old communities have understood the potential of mRNAs to teach the body to make a specific protein, making it a unique way for preventing or treating certaindiseases.
Our understanding has evolved, and we have learned that mRNA is extremely versatile and it can energize the body to make its own medicines. By the beginning of the pandemic, Moderna had resolved most of the technical difficulties of mRNA technology and were focused on scaling up a very effective process of development and manufacturing. However, one of the initial difficulties we faced, and have since overcome, was stabilizing the mRNA so it would not be quickly degraded in the body.
We have developed experience in lipid nanoparticles or LNPs, which can be used in vaccine delivery with Modernas'' proprietary LNP technology. It has been crucial to the success of the company''s COVID-19 vaccine.
Can you talk about Modernas''s mRNA technology platform and how it can be used for vaccinations and antibody therapies? MC: For those who are unfamiliar, can you understand the Modernas mRNA technology platform and how it can be used for therapy or vaccination?
SH: Since our first meeting in 2010, we have partnered with the organization to develop the world''s leading mRNA technology platform. We spent the first decade researching the science of mRNA technology and fine-tuning how we use it to treat or treat illnesses, backed by the belief that the potential for mRNA to help treat and prevent diseases was endless.
We are working on developing and testing new mRNA medicines for a wide range of illnesses, starting with identifying a protein that may prevent or treat a certain disease. From there, our scientists design an mRNA that contains instructions for this protein. This protein is then encapsulated in a hydrophobic lipid nanoparticle (LNP) to protect the mRNA.
Our scientists designed a mRNA vaccination that helps the body to produce proteins calledhemagglutinin and neuraminidase to help your immune system fight off different flu strains.Moderna is also developing mRNA therapies that can assist patients withcancer, rare diseases, and many other diseases.
Moderna is collaborating with IAVI to combat global health concerns, according to MC. Can you discuss how this partnership reached out to?
SH: Through modernization technology, we can continue to save as many lives as possible, and the partnership with IAVI will enable us to address the wide variety of global health issues, including HIV/AIDS, TB, antimicrobial-resistant enteric infections, and COVID-19. These diseases are expected to have resulted in at least 95 million new infections, as well as more than 4 million fatalities in 2020 alone. Combined Moderna''s mRNA platform and IAVI''s expertise in discovery and development will help us
MC: What are the key goals for the partnership, and how will the partnership bolster both the development and accessibility of mRNA-based vaccinations/ antibodies?
SH: The aim of this partnership is to leverage the mRNA platform''s capability to accelerate the development of products for challenging yet high public health impact indications, such as a vaccination against HIV-1. With the Modernas platform and the IAVIs antigen design, we aim to leverage the synergistic expertise to address these specific disease states and pathogens.
Can you talk about the Modernas clinical pipeline and why specific focus areas have been chosen? MC: Can you suggest discussing this?
SH: Through collaboration research and development, we strive to develop innovative solutions to combat infectious diseases that pose the greatest risk to public health.
We have recently announced four new initiatives aimed at advancing mRNA vaccinations for the prevention of infectious diseases. First, a commitment to expand our global public health portfolio to 15 vaccination programs with moderna''s mRNA technology to investigate new vaccinations for infectious diseases. We are also extending our patent promise to never enforce COVID-19 patents in the Gavi COVAX AMC for 92 low- and middle-income countries.
Finally, we announced that with the assistance of the US government, we have entered a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Kenya to establish Kenya as the basis for its mRNA manufacturing facility.
These initiatives are a testament to organizations'' desire to revolutionize global health through our technology.
MC: What does moderna''s future look like in medicine?
SH: At Moderna, we believe that mRNA may treat one disease, and that it has the potential to be leveraged across other therapeutic areas.
As a result of this growth, we learned that speed is a benefit compared to traditional vaccinations. We also learned that we might combine vaccinations against a variety of pathogens with only one dose. Luckily, mRNA technology has the potential to provide people with instructions to make diverse medicines with their own bodies.