The two scientists who developed the technology used in the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine received a $ 3 million award.
The Breakthrough Prize is in its 10th year, with basic physics, life sciences, and Math.. Each award includes a $ 3 million award provided by Foundation founding sponsors Sergey Brin, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, Yuri and Julia Milner, and Anne Wojcick. This year, one of the three awards in the Life Sciences category will be presented to Catalin Ricoh and Drew Weissman. These awards have paved the way for today’s COVID, with decades of research leading to the development of the technology needed to deliver mRNA to cells. -19 vaccinationIn particular, created by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
In essence, Kariko and Weissman figured out a way to calm the alarm from. Immune system Synthetic messenger RNA is long enough to slip into the cell, send commands to the cell to make proteins, and harmlessly degrade when those instructions are delivered. By that process COVID-19 vaccine It has been administered to more than 360 million people in the United States alone and millions in countries around the world, and the technology has the potential to pave the way for gene therapy and cancer treatment in the future.
“The innovative vaccine developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna and proven to be effective against the virus relies on decades of research by Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman.” , The Breakthrough Foundation said in a statement. “Despite widespread skepticism, convinced of the potential of mRNA therapy, they are not only essential to the fight against the coronavirus today, but also future vaccines for a wide range of diseases, including HIV, cancer and autoimmunity. And created a technology that holds great promise for treatment. And genetic disease. “
“There is great potential for the future of modified RNA,” Weissman, an immunologist and professor of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told Live Science.
For example, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Weissmann’s group began clinical trials of mRNA vaccines to prevent genital herpes, influenza, and HIV. In 2020, they began researching a pan-coronavirus vaccine that could surpass betacoronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 is just one example. They are also working on RNA-based gene therapy for sickle cell anemia targeting bone marrow stem cells.
Meanwhile, Karikó, an adjunct professor of neurosurgery at Perelman Medical College and senior vice president of BioNTech, is working with a German biotechnology company to develop mRNA therapies to fight. cancer Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
To understand why the platform is so powerful, it is helpful to know how RNA molecules help with direct intracellular activity.
In all living things DNA And RNA work together to make proteins. The genes in DNA contain instructions for building proteins, but DNA remains trapped in the nucleus, far away from the cell’s protein-building site, the ribosome. To get information about genes from point A to point B, cells build a molecule called messenger RNA (mRNA). This molecule plunges, copying the relevant bits of the genetic code and zooming off to the ribosome. From there, the ribosome works with the second molecule, “transfer RNA” (tRNA), to transform its genetic code into a new, shiny one. protein..
RNA-based vaccines and therapies are very similar to natural RNA, except that scientists build their own custom RNA molecules in the laboratory. The synthesized RNA is sent to specific cells in the body and builds proteins according to the instructions of RNA. When Karikó and Weissman first began collaborating in the 1990s, they experimented with delivering RNA to dendritic cells, immune cells that signal a danger when a foreign invader, such as a virus, is detected. Vaccines target these cells to initiate an immune response and train the body to recognize specific pathogens.
However, this early study found that “RNA is highly active in the immune system. Perhaps many viruses are RNA, and our bodies are constantly fighting them,” Weissman said. Says.In their experiments, the team was able to get the dendritic cells to build the proteins they needed, but synthetic RNA was also in critical condition. inflammation In the cell. “So Katie [Karikó] And for the first seven years or so, I had to understand why RNA was responsible for immunogenicity, activation, and how to get rid of it. “
Ultimately, they thought that inflammation could be prevented by replacing one of the components of mRNA, uridine, with a very similar one called pseudouridine. In human cells, pseudouridine is contained in tRNA, Weissman said. This important discovery published in the journal in 2005 Immunity, Will be the key to all future mRNA vaccine development. Reported by Stat News..
Even after resolving the inflammation problem, the team faced “a huge number of hurdles.” For example, they had to devise the best way to get mRNA into their cells in the first place. They finally discovered that lipid nanoparticles, which are essentially small fat bubbles, did their best to protect RNA from enzymes that could degrade while shuttle molecules to cells. He said.
All this work laid the foundation for the emergence of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This encourages cells to build the characteristic spike proteins of the coronavirus. Also, these vaccines can be easily renewed to target new coronavirus variants, thanks to the adaptability of the RNA platform. Perhaps in the future, mRNA, along with a myriad of other medical treatments, could form the basis of the first pancoronavirus vaccine.
“The possibilities are immeasurable,” Weissman said. “My lab is currently working with 150 different laboratories around the world to develop a variety of mRNA vaccines and treatments, so that interest is growing day by day.”
Originally published in Live Science.
Two Scientists Win $ 3 Million “Breakthrough Prize” for mRNA Technology Behind COVID-19 Vaccine
Source link Two Scientists Win $ 3 Million “Breakthrough Prize” for mRNA Technology Behind COVID-19 Vaccine