Novel eRNA based therapies
Another innovation in mRNA-based vaccines is the creation of a new type of RNA. Flagship Pioneering, one of the founders of the Moderna vaccine, has launched Laronde, a new type of RNA therapy. Lorande is unique because it uses circular RNA as the mechanism for treatment instead of linear RNA, which Flagship Pioneering has named endless RNA or eRNA for short. This lack of caps and tails in eRNA, which make normal mRNA identifiable, gives this circular form of RNA numerous advantages within the cell.
The eRNA has the potential to be more resistant to exonucleases (enzymes that grab hold of the loose ends of linear mRNA and chop it up) and shield the circular RNA from innate immune system sensors in the body. The therapy is more effective and longer-lasting than a conventional vaccine by shielding the eRNA from an immune response.
While the eRNA treatment has many promising uses, its interaction with cellular mechanisms in the body proved to be challenging for scientists. Flagship scientists encountered problems with the translation of the eRNA via the ribosome. The ribosome did not willingly interact with this new type of RNA due to the lack of an identifiable endpoint to start transcription.
A strand of genetic code called the internal ribosome entry site was added to solve this problem. This addition proved effective, as it caused the ribosome to recognize the RNA and allowed cells to make therapeutic proteins for an extended period of time.
The forefront of programable medicine
While the technology is still in its early stages of development, Flagship has committed to continue improving this technology and has set aside $50 million to the Laronde project. The company believes it will create 100 eRNA medicines within the next decade, putting them at the forefront of programable medicine innovations.
However, Flagship is not the only company developing circular RNA-based therapies. Orna Therapeutics, a startup based in Cambridge, MA, has also been developing its own circular RNA therapy. Their work is based on MIT scientist Daniel Anderson’s findings on the creation and uses of circular RNAs. To create mRNA circles, they designed a particular type of linear mRNA that had the ability for the end of the linear mRNA to bind together, forming a circle.
Another segment called the internal ribosome entry sequence is used to initiate the translation of the circularized mRNA in the cell. Orna’s circular RNAs exhibit the same benefits as Flagship Pioneering, including simplified production, increased protein expression, and improved formidability.
mRNA drug delivery research
The success of the mRNA-based COVID 19 vaccine has opened up mRNA drug delivery research, specifically cancer research. There are many promising cancer therapies in development with millions of dollars in funding for new types of technology such as circular mRNA-based vaccines. These vaccines have the potential to revolutionize the vaccination industry due to their inexpensive and rapid production.
Additionally, Moderna’s manufacture of personalized cancer vaccines could change the cancer treatment industry as a whole. If successful, potentially shifting all cancer therapy to a personalized mRNA-based approach. The current research done by companies worldwide is groundbreaking and shows promise in the future of cancer treatment.