With people globally catching up on obtaining their COVID-19 vaccines and achieving herd immunity, Pfizer and Moderna already have their eyes set on the potential future applications of their vaccine technology. Both companies have announced recently that they will be using the mRNA technology, prominently known for its COVID-19 vaccination applications, in future virus-fighting endeavors.
mRNA works by carrying messages to the body with instructions for making antigen proteins. These proteins, which line the surface of a virus, then work by training your immune system to block the virus from entering.
Moderna is already using mRNA research to develop a variety of vaccines for the new variants of COVID-19, in hopes of nipping some of the spread in the bud. The Boston company recently sent new versions of the vaccine to the National Institute of Health to test a new batch of vaccines specifically targeting the B.1.351 variant, first discovered in South Africa.
The company is anticipating, like many other scientists, that COVID-19 will never truly disappear and will slowly become likened to a regular flu, requiring similar boosters on a yearly basis to improve the immune system’s fight against the virus. mRNA technology is helping make this a reality. As well as developing shots for the virus, Moderna is also attempting to create a standard flu-shot which guarantees upwards of 90% success at eliminating the seasonal flu.
In addition to this groundbreaking work, Pfizer and Moderna are both said to be developing cancer treatments utilizing the mRNA technology applications. Moderna already has five mRNA-based cancer vaccines in various stages of development.
Pfizer has been clear about its attempts to expand this technology but hasn’t yet provided specific information on future applications. CEO Albert Bourla was quoted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying, “We are the best-positioned company right now to take it to the next step because of our size and our expertise.” Though it is not totally clear which applications mRNA will be used for by Pfizer, there is definitive talk of an enhanced flu shot, like Moderna’s, on the horizon.
Wherever this technology may lead companies in development over the years, one thing is clear: the effectiveness of mRNA applications are promising enough to give this type of technology a lasting place in the future research and development of virus prevention.