Instant vaccine in the making
26.11.2012 - Immunologists from Germany prove that messenger RNA vaccines work in mice, ferrets and pigs. Translation to humans would speed up flu control.
The idea sounds compelling: Instead of injecting peptide parts or complete proteins to trigger immune reactions, future vaccines could consist of messenger RNA molecules. Scientists from the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut and the biotech enterprise CureVac GmbH (both from Tübingen, Germany) as well as from a branch of Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut on an island in the Baltic Sea near Greifswald, showed that immunisation with mRNA works thus far in mice, ferrets and pigs. The corresponding study was published online on 25 November by Nature Biotechnology. Lead author Lothar Stitz from Greifwald and colleagues report that the resulting immune responses were similar or even stronger than those provoked by commercially available vaccines.
Producing conventional vaccines is a time-consuming process. If Stitz’ approach also works in humans, flu vaccines could be designed and made within weeks instead of months. Hence, pandemics could be brought under control much more easily. What is more, mRNA vaccines in general are characterised by superior stabilities at high temperatures and by improved efficacy in young and old mice. These features could make a difference as it is mostly the elderly and children who suffer most from flu casualties.
The results strengthen German Curevac GmbH, the manufacturer of mRNA-coded antigens. Only in September, the biotech set a German record by closing the biggest financing round of a German biotech ever (€80m).