mRNA Applications Beyond COVID-19

Researchers push the boundaries of mRNA technology, creating market opportunities across a range of therapeutic modalities

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Thermo June eBook coverThe mRNA-based vaccines that turned the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic currently account for almost all the value of the mRNA vaccine/therapeutic market. Indeed, the vaccine-led response to the pandemic is roughly coincident with the emergence of this market, which rose from practically nothing in 2019 to reach at least $50 billion in 2021.

These figures were reported by the Boston Consulting Group (Nat. Rev. Drug Disc. 2021; 20, 735–736), which expects the mRNA product market to fall in value as the need for COVID-19 vaccines starts to wane. By 2028, the market value will decrease to about $14 billion, by which time COVID-19 vaccines will account for about 86% of mRNA product revenue. By 2035, product revenue due to COVID-19 vaccines will be just 22%. Market value, however, will climb back up to $23 billion.

What will cause the rise? A growing collection of mRNA-based products. Some, like the COVID-19 vaccines, will be prophylactic vaccines. Others will be therapeutic vaccines, such as the mRNA-based personalized cancer vaccines that are being investigated as adjuncts to cytokine therapies or checkpoint inhibitor therapies. Yet others will be therapeutic drugs, such as mRNAs for protein replacement or anti-body generation applications.

Progress in each of these modalities depends on research advancements, examples of which make up the bulk of this eBook. Besides articles on HIV vaccines and malaria vaccines, this eBook presents an article on mRNA-encoded antibodies and an article on an mRNA-based nanotherapy that restores the expres-sion of a tumor suppressor protein. Finally, and perhaps most intriguingly, this eBook covers a synthetic biology switch that can, upon being flipped by an endogenous or exogenous transcript, permit the conditional translation of a desired protein.

Research advances, it must be admitted, don’t automatically translate into clinically approved and reve-nue-generating therapeutic products. Nonetheless, optimism with respect to mRNA-based applica-tions may be justified. These applications stand to benefit from the pandemic-driven improvements in mRNA-related products and services. On the research side, these improvements cover activities such as RNA synthesis; RNA purification and delivery; and RNA effect monitoring. On the manufacturing side, they cover activities such as plasmid production; mRNA and vector analytics; formulation, fill, and finish; and cold-chain support.


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