Affinity purification (also called affinity chromatography) is recognized as the most powerful method of purification chromatography or enriching a protein of interest from a complex mixture such as a crude cell lysate, cell culture supernatant, or other samples.
There is more to messenger RNA (mRNA) technology than just COVID-19 vaccines. mRNA technology can also be harnessed to discover new drugs and treatments for other infectious diseases.
Before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the general public hadn’t even heard of messenger RNA, let alone its enormous potential in disease treatment and prevention. Despite the extensive studies and laboratory experiments regarding the possible applications of mRNA for the past 25 years, some people believed that the development of the COVID 19 vaccines was rushed and, therefore, lacked credibility. Some even assumed it could do more harm than good. However, the success of the mRNA vaccines against the deadly COVID-19 pandemic proved the naysayers wrong. This novel approach to inoculation has forever changed the future of the vaccine industries and opened a whole new world of opportunities for fighting other infectious diseases and future epidemics.
Advantages over Traditional Vaccines
Vaccines manufactured using mRNA technology offer several advantages over conventional vaccines. Specifically, they are safer, more effective, easily adaptable, and require lower production time and costs.
Safety. While traditional vaccines use an inactivated version of a virus to elicit an immune response, mRNA vaccines do not contain whole microbes (whether dead or alive) and pose no risk of infection or DNA integration. However, mild and temporary side effects (e.g., muscle pain, swelling at the injection site, and flu-like symptoms) may be experienced in the days following immunization.
Efficacy. Recent advancements were developed to circumvent the limitations of mRNA technology. Specifically, the mRNA molecule has been packed in lipids to increase stability, the efficiency of cell delivery, and immune response.
Adaptability. The mRNA can be developed and tweaked as needed, making it easily adaptable to different pathogens. Since only the genetic code for the target protein is needed, synthetic mRNA can realistically be produced in several days. It’s noteworthy that the major delays in COVID-19 vaccination were related to production, testing, and regulatory approval.
Cost-effectiveness. Compared to other platforms, mRNA vaccines are more cost-effective, and the cost of production is expected to further decrease along with future advancements.
What Does the Future Hold?
Unsurprising, given the staggering success of mRNA vaccines in the fight against COVID-19, scientists are bent on further developing the technology. Some are working on vaccine formulations that are more stable at higher temperatures, while others are experimenting with single-shot second-generation vaccines. Universal COVID-19 vaccines that are effective against possible future strains are also in the works.
Aside from improving the current vaccines against the coronavirus, the possibility of using mRNA technology in combating other diseases and future emerging pathogens is also being investigated by pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Pharma researchers are working on mRNA vaccines against the following conditions, to just name a few:
- Yellow fever
- Hepatitis B
- Cystic fibrosis
BioNTech and Pfizer are collaborating on the development of a universal mRNA-based vaccine against the seasonal flu virus while Moderna is currently in phase 1 clinical trial of an mRNA vaccine for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). At the same time, the company is recruiting for a phase 3 clinical trial for their CMV vaccine.
CureVac’s mRNA rabies vaccine is in phase 1 clinical trial while mRNA HIV vaccines are currently in the early stages of preclinical trials.
BioNTEch and Moderna are also testing several mRNA cancer therapies and personalized treatments for several types of cancer, including melanoma, colorectal, and head and neck cancer.
Given the fact that mRNA vaccines only need a piece of the genetic code for a particular protein to stimulate an immune response, it can be used to target any existing pathogen. Indeed, the possibilities and potentials of mRNA technology are virtually endless.
Reference & tagged content for this blog is Molecular Biology: Handbook and Selection Guide.