An optimized mRNA vaccine against COVID-19
Vaccines in the form of in vitro transcribed mRNA have proven to be the fastest to produce during the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020 Moderna (Boston US) injected the first participant. The present project aims to further optimise mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.
For non-replicating mRNA vaccines currently used by BioNTech, CureVac and Moderna in phase III trials, the amount of mRNA per injection is between 12 and 100 g. Should 100 g be needed, vaccinating the whole Swiss population would require 2 kg of purified mRNA, i.e. at least 400 litres of transcription reaction mixture. This cannot be achieved easily and quickly because it requires expensive infrastructures and large amounts of raw materials. Self-amplifying mRNA requires much lower amounts of material than non-replicating mRNA.
We aim to generate an optimal and safe self-amplifying mRNA vaccine for subcutaneous, intramuscular or intranasal administration that induces a strong antibody response against SARS-CoV-2. The amounts of mRNA could be a thousand-fold lower than the amounts required for the current non-replicating mRNA vaccines.
Expected results and envisaged products
We expect to identify a formulation of an mRNA vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 that will induce a strong antibody response after an injection of a very small amout of vaccine mRNA, in the range of one nanogram mRNA per mouse. The outcome will be a safe, efficacious, versatile and inexpensive mRNA vaccine against coronavirus that can also form the basis for easily and quickly manufactured vaccines against any new viral diseases.
Specific contribution to tackle the current pandemic
Our work will provide a method for designing and producing an mRNA vaccine that can induce strong antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus with a minimum amount of injected mRNA. Using this method, we predict that we could vaccinate the whole Swiss population with just 5 grams of spike-coding mRNA. This amount of mRNA could easily be produced within a small GMP certified infrastructure using small amounts of reagents (e.g. nucleotides and enzymes).
Optimierter mRNA-Impfstoff für die COVID-19-Prophylaxe
Website NRP 78 Research