The past few months have brought a number of scientific terms to public attention. No one knew whether mRNA technology would work against this virus – but it does.
RNA = “messenger ribonucleic acid”, a label familiar enough if you studied biology at O-level or GCSE. The new technology makes use of mRNA which is short for messenger RNA. These carry nucleic acids – the chemical “building blocks” of life. RNA represents a family of molecules that is structurally similar to DNA, but whose function is slightly different. Messenger RNA acts as a temporary “working copy” of the genes (made of DNA) that our bodies have to read and translate in order to make the proteins that control the life processes taking place in our cells; if the genes are the encyclopedia, then mRNA is more like the hand-written notes that you make when you need to go shopping.
If you had said as recently as 10 years ago that you could protect people from infections by injecting them with mRNA, you would have provoked some puzzled looks. In the early days of the Covid-19 epidemic, it was reported that the companies like
- CureVac or
could have a vaccine against the new coronavirus ready for testing on animals within one month, and on humans within three months. In the end they did it even faster; the first batch for human testing was ready in 42 days. This process normally takes several years, but innovative vaccine technology can do the job at record speeds. If a coronavirus vaccine can be created this fast and this well with mRNA, why not use this approach across the board? In short: will mRNA become the default platform for vaccines from now on? That would mark a huge breakthrough in disease prevention. In this keynote Ingmar Hoerr, founder of CureVac will answer to question of whether mRNA could represent the future of all vaccines.