Since the beginning of the pandemic there has been a search for a vaccine, and now there are three options available; Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use synthetic mRNA; a technology that has been in the making since the 1970s.
Hungarin scientist, Katalin Karikó, migrated to the United States to research uses of mRNA at the University of Pennsylvania. She struggled to find a version of it that the body wouldn’t immediately reject. Then in the early 2000’s, Karikó realized what she needed to change to have a successful mRNA.
Kariko and Drew Weissman then went to found Moderna. When COVID-19 rocked the world, the technology for the vaccine was 40 years in the making. The protein spike was identified researchers and from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are able to adjust the synthetic mRNA.
Now that mRNA has been proven effective for the coronavirus, researchers are moving their attention to other viruses such as malaria. Other vaccines have proved unsuccessful with the quickly mutating virus but the mRNA has been promising. A vaccine that has worked well in mice testing was patented in Feburary.
Apart from viruses, mRNA technology has potential in cancer treatment. BioNTech has been researching how to implement it in cancer-immunotherapy. The process is to take a tissue sample from the cancer inflicted area and developing mRNA that would attack the cancer specific cells rather than radiation and chemotherapy, which attack cancer and healthy cells.
The development of this technology has helped bring the COVID-19 pandemic towards its end along with potential cures to many other life threatening ailments. The exposure with covid has brought funding towards the research and development of future mRNA vaccines.