mRNA has become the buzz word amongst scientists, vaccinees & those who are who are waiting in line to get vaccinated. The CDC has published bulletins on the mechanisms & benefits of mRNA vaccines, however, mRNA based therapeutics have remained an area of unquenched curiosity for most of us. Molecular biologists would agree that this is not a new area of research & in fact would celebrate the fact that RNA-based therapeutics are finally seeing the daylight after decades of stay-in-the-dark bench-side development.
On December 18, 2020 U.S. FDA issued an emergency authorization for Moderna’s newly developed messenger-RNA-based vaccine when the entire pharma industry was scrambling to rein-in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, now the potential applications of RNA-based therapeutics look beyond solutions for COVID-19 & some also refer to this as a new era in vaccinology. Scientists are looking to develop personalised cancer vaccines, as well as vaccines for infectious diseases like Zika and Nipah.
As an approach to simplify the complexities of what's been aggrandized as the "central dogma of molecular biology", the figure below provides a brief introduction to the types of RNA & their functions whilst throwing a spotlight on the FDA approved RNA-based drugs. The core modality areas of Moderna's pipeline have also been highlighted & these include several promising focus areas in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine.