MNT recently covered what Tal Zaks, Chief Medical Officer of Moderna Therapeutics, and Prof. Uğur Şahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, had to say about their candidate vaccine at the recent Wired Health:Tech event.
Both the Moderna-NIAID and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines use mRNA — that is, they use genetic information rather than a viral base to “train” the immune system to respond to SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The speakers explained how an mRNA-based vaccine could be made available faster and is generally superior to other types of vaccines that use a viral base.
They cited “the infrastructure required” as being “relatively small and quick.” They also mentioned that, because the starting point is genetic information rather than the virus itself, “there is a component of speed that allows you to get into the clinic and then […] scale-up manufacturing.”
However, it is worth noting that while both of these candidate mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 show promise in early-stage clinical trials, there is no data available yet to confirm that they can prevent people from developing the disease.
It is also important to note that there are no human-licensed mRNA vaccines for other diseases. If the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approve these vaccines, it will be groundbreaking, not just in the fight against COVID-19, but for mRNA vaccines in general.