Since the first shaman thousands of years ago figured out that a particular herb can cure a particular ailment, people have been taking medication for all sorts of medical conditions. They take them orally, in pill or some similar form, or intravenously, using a syringe or an IV drip. Now, according to Reuters, the biotechnology industry in both the United States and Germany is developing a new way to get medications to fight the diseases of the body. The new process involves using RNA molecules or mRNA to instruct the body’s cells to create the needed proteins that serve as medicine. The new technique has the potential to fight infectious diseases and cancers that are currently difficult to treat using conventional medication.
The companies getting ready to test and start rolling out mRNA therapies are Moderna Therapeutics, based in Massachusetts. CureVac in the university town of Tuebingen, and Mainz-based BioNTech. The three companies have received hundreds of millions of dollars in new investment based on the promise of mRNA. The three companies have recently sponsored the third International mRNA Health Conference in Berlin.
Thus far CureVac has been the leader in clinical trials, having tested the technique to create vaccines for rabies and prostate cancer. Moderna is right behind, gearing up for trials with a number of partners including AstraZeneca, Merck & Co and Alexion. A new drug that can treat heart failure is one of the most exciting prospects. Another possible therapy is using mRNA to improve coronary blood flows, with trials starting in 2016, being conducted by AstraZeneca.
While animal studies show a great deal of promise, the history of cutting-edge therapies suggests that setbacks and blind alleys will occur before mRNA starts being used in a clinical setting.
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