What's next for mRNA

mRNA Therapeutics have received attention like no other biotechnology before it throughout 2020 and 2021, due to its pivotal role in overcoming the coronavirus. mRNA vaccines are a newer approach to vaccinations but in reality they have been studied for many years for other infections such as HIV, zika and rabies [1]. The massive impact of mRNA vaccines has resulted in first mover companies like Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna experiencing massive increases in stock price over the past year, due to the massive influx of investors interested in investing in the future of medicine.

mRNA structure
mRNA molecule designed by Stargazing bio Research in VMD

mRNA was discovered in 1956 by the two scientists Elliot Volkin and Lazarus Astrachan in E. coli [2]. Since then, mRNA has been identified as one of the most important building blocks of the body. mRNA is a transcript created from DNA within the nucleus of cells and serves as the recipe for proteins. When mRNA engages with ribosomes, the complex is able to create amino-acid sequences that can then fold into proteins. The first reports on the use of mRNA as vaccines came from a 1989 study conducted by Felgner, et al. showing transfection of mRNA in mice[3]. The science behind mRNA vaccines has come a long way since then, and the evolution and successful application of these vaccines paint a promising picture for the future of mRNA in therapeutics.

mRNA vaccines are far from the only therapeutic application of mRNA and many companies are working on revolutionary medicines using this technology. Arcturus Therapeutics are leveraging its proprietary LUNAR delivery platform to create effective mRNA therapeutics targeting diseases like ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency and cystic fibrosis (CF) [4,5]. Another company, Translate Bio, is also developing mRNA medicines against CF while also focusing on other diseases such as pulmonary arterial hypertension and primary ciliary dyskinesia. Translate also has a deal with Sanofi to develop mRNA vaccines against several infectious diseases [6]. However, Sanofi is not the only big pharma company involved in the mRNA therapeutics wave, with companies like AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithkline and many more signing licensing and development deals [7,8].

Overall, the development and expansion of mRNA therapeutics we’ve seen over the past year seem to only be the beginning and there is a lot of room for companies working with these technologies to grow. Investors have bet strongly on the success of mRNA vaccine companies, and the effectiveness of these companies and their vaccines can likely serve as a promising foundation for the growth of mRNA therapeutics in the future, as investors have been made aware of what mRNA can do.

If you would like to learn more about mRNA and get an overview of every single company working with mRNA therapeutics, check out the company database.

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