Messenger RNA (mRNA) based vaccine technology is emerging as one of the frontrunners among the technologies being evaluated to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, with eighteen candidates currently in development globally, according to GlobalData, data and analytics company.
Keshalini Sabaratnam, Pharma Analyst at GlobalData, comments, “RNA vaccines are an innovative approach as they offer several advantages over conventional vaccines, particularly when responding to a pandemic threat. While conventional vaccines developed with an attenuated or inactivated disease-causing pathogen or using proteins made by the pathogen (antigens) require long production times and have limited production capacity, RNA vaccines work by introducing an mRNA sequence that encodes the disease-specific antigen to trigger the body’s immune system.
“A major advantage of RNA vaccines is that RNA can be produced rapidly and cheaply in the laboratory, offering the potential to scale up production to meet the demands of a pandemic. Other advantages include enhanced immunogenicity and better safety profile compared to classical and other types of vaccines, as has been proven in clinical trials,” Sabaratnam said.
Over 150 COVID-19 vaccines are currently under development by biopharma companies and research organisations around the world. Nine of them are in clinical trials. While SinoVac biotech’s inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and University of Oxford’s ChAdOx1-nCov19, a recombinant viral vector vaccine, were first to progress ahead of others to Phase I/II studies, RNA vaccine candidates were not far behind.
BioNTech and Pfizer initiated Phase I/II clinical studies for its BNT162 RNA vaccine program in Germany on April 23, 2020. Trials for BNT162 will also be conducted in the US and in China. Moderna’s mRNA vaccine candidate mRNA-1273 is expected to enter a Phase II study in Q2 2020. Moderna was the first company to test a vaccine against COVID-19 in humans.
Seven other preclinical stage mRNA vaccine candidates are in the pipeline for COVID-19. Of these, Stemirna Therapeutics’, Imperial College London’s, Curevac’s, and Arcturus Therapeutics’ vaccine candidates are expected to enter clinical trials in the summer.