German scientists are developing an RNA influenza vaccine that can be produced in weeks rather than several months.
The novel vaccine consists of only messenger RNA, a molecule that conveys information to cells about what proteins to make. Tests in mice, ferrets and pigs have shown that an mRNA vaccine can yield immune response equal to or greater than conventional vaccines, according to FierceVaccines.com.
The experimental mRNA vaccine is being researched by a team led by Lothar Stitz of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut. The research was recently published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
Although a human vaccine based on the team’s research will take years to complete, investors have shown interest. CureVac, a biotech company backed by software magnate Dietmar Hopp, will likely move the project into its next stages. CureVac is particularly interested in mRNA vaccines and has a therapeutic mRNA vaccine for prostate cancer in human trials, according to Reuters.
Typically, a flu vaccine made with fertilized chicken eggs can take up to six months to produce. The biopharmaceutical company Novartis recently received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a vaccine produced with cell cultures. Although the method is faster, it only reduces manufacturing time by eight to 10 weeks.