Tag Archives: mRNA

How Does an mRNA Vaccine Work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unusual attention to everything from handwashing to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. As we move into the later stages of this pandemic, though, a different scientific concept has dominated the national conversation: vaccines. The study of the human immune system and how vaccines influence it is complex and sometimes counterintuitive, and the deployment of a new method for immunization based on mRNA has made it all the more confusing.

The two vaccines that have received Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) from the Food and Drug Administration are both mRNA vaccines. And since they’re our only hope for ending this pandemic, it’s crucial to understand how they work—and why you should get one.

Vaccines come in a few main forms, but they share the same central goal: equip our immune systems with the tools to handily defeat a pathogen we might encounter in the future. Think of it like a practice round before your body sees the real thing.

The exact way our bodies develop this preemptive immunity depends on the kind of vaccine we’re given. Live-attenuated vaccines provide our cells with a weakened version of a pathogen; protein subunit vaccines give just one part of a bad guy, so immune cells know how to recognize that part of a virus or bacterium. But mRNA (short for messenger RNA) vaccines actually provide our cells with the instructions for making a protein from the pathogen, in essence creating their own practice dummy. Our own cells produce the viral protein specific to, say, SARS-CoV-2, and then our immune system learns to recognize the proteins.

Source: https://www.popsci.com/

Immune System Killer Cells Controlled By Circadian Rhythms

An analysis of an exhaustive dataset on cells essential to the mammalian immune system shows that our ability to fight disease may rely more heavily on daily circadian cycles than previously assumed.

Malfunctions in , the process that keeps our bodies in tune with the day/night cycles, are increasingly associated with diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and many other diseases. An investigation published today in Genome Research shows that the activity of macrophagescells within us that seek and destroy intruders like bacteria—may time daily changes in their responses to pathogens and stress through the circadian control of metabolism. In this study, Jennifer Hurley, the Richard Baruch M.D. Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and senior author on this study, and her team investigated how the levels of RNA and proteins in macrophages change over two days.

We have shown there is an incredible amount of circadian timing of macrophage behavior, but the clock is timing macrophages in unexpected ways” said Hurley.

The circadian system is comprised of a set of core clock proteins that anticipate the day/night cycle by causing daily oscillations in levels of enzymes and hormones, and ultimately affecting physiological parameters such as body temperature and the immune response. This molecular clock marks time through a self-regulating cycle of  production and decay. The “positive” element proteins of the clock trigger production of the “negative” element proteins, which in turn block production of positive element proteins until the negative element proteins decay, thus creating a negative feedback cycle that occurs once every 24 hours.

Positive element proteins also regulate fluctuations in a substantial number of gene products, known as messenger RNA or mRNA. Genetic instructions are transcribed from DNA to mRNA, which are then used as a recipe for assembling proteins, the functional building blocks of the cell. It has long been assumed that the levels of each subsequent step could be predicted from the previous. If that were the case, oscillating mRNA would correspond with oscillating levels of cellular proteins, and therefore, if one could track mRNA, they would know what proteins the circadian clock controlled in the cell.

However, this investigation showed that this paradigm may not always be true. The analysis of the macrophage dataset revealed that there was a substantial mismatch between the proteins and mRNAs that are controlled by the circadian clock. This data paralleled research published in Cell Systems in 2018 by the Hurley lab, showing that about 40% of oscillating proteins in the fungus and circadian model system, Neurospora crassa, had no corresponding oscillating mRNA.

But the scale of the difference in macrophages really surprised us,” Hurley said. “Eighty percent of the proteins that oscillate don’t have associated oscillating mRNA in macrophages. That means we were really missing how the clock was timing immunity.”

Source: https://medicalxpress.com/

Pfizer Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is 95% Effective

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that a final data analysis found their coronavirus vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 and, in addition, appeared to fend off severe disease.

Vaccine, called BNT162b2, was highly effective against the virus 28 days after the first dose, and its effectiveness was consistent across all ages, races and ethnicities, the drugmakers said. Additionally, the elderly, who are seen as at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19, saw vaccine effectiveness of more than 94%, they added.

The final analysis underlines the results of the positive interim efficacy analysis announced on November 9,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said in a statement. “The data indicates that our vaccine … is able to induce a high rate of protection against COVID-19 only 29 days after the first dose. In addition, the vaccine was observed to be well-tolerated in all age groups with mostly mild to moderate side effects, which may be due in part to the relatively low dose.”

The vaccine also appeared to prevent severe disease in volunteers. There were 10 cases of severe cases of COVID-19 observed in the phase three trial, with nine of the cases occurring in the placebo group, the companies said. There were also no “serious” safety concerns, they said, with most adverse events resolving shortly after vaccination. The company’s shares jumped 3% in premarket trading.

The final analysis evaluated 170 confirmed COVID-19 infections among the late-stage trial’s more than 43,000 participants. The companies said 162 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus eight cases observed in the group that received its two-dose vaccine. That resulted in an estimated vaccine efficacy of 95%, they said.

The news comes more than a week after the companies announced that their vaccine was more than 90% effective and two days after Moderna said preliminary phase three trial data showed its vaccine was 94.5%. Both vaccines use messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology. It’s a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.

A safe and effective vaccine is seen by investors and policymakers as a solution to get the global economy back on track after the pandemic wreaked havoc on nearly every country across the globe and upended businesses. The virus continues to spread rapidly, with more than 55.6 million cases worldwide and at least 1.33 million deaths as of Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Pfizer and BioNTech‘s initial results on Nov. 9 were based on the first interim efficacy analysis conducted by an external and independent Data Monitoring Committee from the phase three clinical trial. The independent group of experts oversees U.S. clinical trials to ensure the safety of participants. Medical experts note it remains unclear how long the vaccines will provide immunity and whether or how often people may need periodic booster shots.

These vaccines are going to be approved and then rolled out with basically a few months’ worth of data. You’re not going to do a two-year study to see whether it’s effective for two years with more than 200,000 people dying this year” in the U.S., Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a recent interview.

Pfizer said it plans to submit an application for emergency use authorization to the Food and Drug Administrationwithin days.” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said at Tuesday’s New York Times Dealbook conference that the company had accumulated enough safety data needed to submit the vaccine for review.

The companies reiterated that they expect to produce up to 50 million doses this year and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. They also said they are “confident” in their ability to distribute the vaccine, which requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Moderna‘s vaccine can be stored for up to six months at negative 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Source: https://www.nbcdfw.com/

Coronavirus Vaccine: Moderna and Pfizer Final Test Results Imminent

Moderna should have enough data from its late-stage trial to know whether its coronavirus vaccine works in November, CEO Stephane Bancel said Thursday. The company could have enough data by October, but that’s unlikely, Bancel said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.

If the infection rate in the country were to slow down in the next weeks, it could potentially be pushed out in a worst-case scenario in December,” he added.

Moderna is one of three drugmakers backed by the U.S. in late-stage testing for a potential vaccine. The other two are companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Moderna‘s experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope provokes the immune system to fight the virus. In July, the company released early-stage data that showed its potential vaccine generated a promising immune response in a small group of patients.

Bancel’s comment came four days after the CEO of Pfizer said its vaccine could be distributed to Americans before the end of the year. CEO Albert Bourla told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the company should have key data from its late-stage trial for the Food and Drug Administration by the end of October. If the FDA approves the vaccine, the company is prepared to distribute “hundreds of thousands of doses,” he said.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/

Why RNA Is A Better Measure Of A Patient’s Current Health Than DNA

By harnessing the combined power of NGS, machine learning and the dynamic nature of RNA we’re able to accurately measure the dynamic immune response and capture a more comprehensive picture of what’s happening at the site of the solid tumor. In the beginning, there was RNA – the first genetic molecule.

In the primordial soup of chemicals that represented the beginning of life, ribonucleic acid (RNA) had the early job of storing information, likely with the support of peptides. Today, RNA’s cousin – deoxyribonucleic acid – or DNA, has taken over most of the responsibilities of passing down genetic information from cell-to-cell, generation-to-generation. As a result, most early health technologies were developed to analyze DNA. But, RNA is a powerful force. And its role in storing information, while different from its early years, has no less of an impact on human health and is gaining more mindshare in our industry.

RNA is often considered a messenger molecule, taking the information coded in our DNA and transcribing it into cellular directives that result in downstream biological signals and proteinslevel changes.  And for this reason, RNA is becoming known not only as a drug target but perhaps more importantly, as a barometer of health.

3d illustration of a part of RNA chain from which the deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is composed

How and why is RNA so useful? First, RNA is labile — changing in both sequence and abundance in response to genetic and epigenetic changes, but also external factors such as disease, therapy, exercise, and more. This is in contrast to DNA, which is generally static, changing little after conception.

Next, RNA is a more accurate snapshot of disease progression. When mutations do occur at the DNA level, these do not always result in downstream biological changes. Often, the body is able to compensate by repairing the mutation or overcome it by using redundancies in the pathway in which the gene resides. By instead evaluating RNA, we get one step closer to understanding the real impact disease is imparting on our body.

Finally, RNA is abundant. In most human cells, while only two copies of DNA are present, hundreds of thousands of mRNA molecules are present,representing more than 10,000 different species of RNA. Because even rare transcripts are present in multiple copies, biological signals can be confidently detected in RNA when the right technology is used.

Source: https://medcitynews.com/

mRNA Are Super Potent Molecules, Fast And Efficient Against Coronavirus

CureVac AG, a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company pioneering mRNA-based drugs for vaccines and therapeutics, confirmed today that internal efforts are focused on the development of a coronavirus vaccine with the goal to reach, help and to protect people and patients worldwide. Based on its inherent mode of action, CureVac sees mRNA as one of the most potent molecules to provide fast and efficient solutions in outbreak scenarios, such like the Coronavirus. With inhouse expertise of over two decades and the company’s deep scientific understanding CureVac is leveraging its potent vaccine platform to focus on developing a potent, efficacious and safe and fast to produce vaccine against Covid-19.

CureVac recently announced successful vaccination results in its Rabies program fully protecting humans with two doses of only 1 microgram (1 millionth of a gram). These results are encouraging when thinking of supplying populations and people worldwide in a pandemic scenario. The company also has long and strong manufacturing expertise for mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics since 2006. At this time, CureVac is working on expanding its manufacturing capacities to be able to provide up to billions of doses for outbreak situations like Covid-19.

Nature has invented mechanisms to activate our immune system against infectious diseases. With our unique messenger RNA technology we mimic nature and give our body the information how to fight against the virus. The combination of mRNA science, disease understanding, formulation and production expertise make CureVac a unique player to fight against any infectious disease, no matter whether they are seasonal or pandemic,” commented Mariola Fotin-Mleczek, Chief Technology Officer of CureVac.

Source: https://www.curevac.com/

Sharpen Molecular Scissors And Expand The Gene Editing Toolbox

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) scientists have figured out a better way to deliver a DNA editing tool to shorten the presence of the editor proteins in the cells in what they describe as a “hit and run” approach.

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is used to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. CRISPR/Cas9 is an enzyme that is used like a pair of scissors to cut two strands of DNA at a specific location to add, remove or repair bits of DNA. But CRISPR/Cas9 is not 100 percent accurate and could potentially cut unexpected locations, causing unwanted results.

One of the major challenges of CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technologies is the possibility of off-targets which may cause tumors or mutations,” said Baisong Lu, Ph.D, assistant professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM and one of the lead authors of the paper. Although other types of lentivirus-like bionanoparticles (LVLPs) have been described for delivering proteins or mRNAs, Lu said, “the LVLP we developed has unique features which will make it a useful tool in the expanding genome editing toolbox.

To address the inaccuracy issue, WFIRM researchers asked the question: Is there a way to efficiently deliver Cas9 activity but achieve transient expression of genome editing proteins? They tested various strategies and then took the best properties of two widely used delivery vehicles – lentivirus vector and nanoparticles – and combined them, creating a system that efficiently packages Cas9 mRNA into LVLPs, enabling transient expression and highly efficient editing.

Lentiviral vector is a widely used gene delivery vehicle in research labs and is already widely used for delivering the CRISPR/Cas9 mRNA technology for efficient genome editing. Nanoparticles are also being used but they are not as efficient in delivery of CRISPR/Cas9.

By combining the transient expression feature of nanoparticle-delivery strategies while retaining the transduction efficiency of lentiviral vectors, we have created a system that may be used for packaging various editor protein mRNA for genome editing in a ‘hit and run’ manner,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM and co-lead author of the paper. “This system will not only improve safety but also avoid possible immune response to the editor proteins, which could improve in vivo gene editing efficiency which will be useful in research and clinical applications.

The WFIRM team published its findings in a paper published recently in the journal  Nucleic Acids Research.

Source: https://school.wakehealth.edu/