Pandemic silver lining: Vaccine technology greatly improved


New technology 'like moving from Renaissance to Industrial Revolution'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The way scientists have been making the flu vaccine in chicken eggs, now turning to test tubes only with mRNA technology — is like moving from the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution.

That’s how Oregon State University Associate Professor Gaurav Sahay — an mRNA researcher — compared the technological transition.

On top of tackling the flu and upper respiratory infections, he said mRNA technology can be used to really transform our lives and eradicate disease, along with treating rare genetic disorders, including cystic fibrosis, HIV and cancer.

“The big picture is that these technologies would be more and more in use. They’ll be safe, efficacious,” Sahay said. “Sometimes the flu shot was, 30 or 40% efficacious based on the strain. These would hopefully be more efficacious and again rapidly eradicating all these other viruses as well.”

He said because the field is escalating, “a lot of great things can happen because of that, too.”

Sahay said if there is a silver lining coming out of the pandemic: these new technologies can help fend off other diseases and now the world has developed the infrastructure to create it.

Moderna starts mRNA vaccine trial for flu

The pharmaceutical company Moderna announced this week they’ve started an early-phase trial for an mRNA-based vaccine for the flu. Ultimately, their goal is to create a yearly, one-stop-shot.

Moderna announced they gave out their first doses of an mRNA-based flu vaccine to participants in this early-phase trial. The company plans to test the vaccine on about 180 people, looking at safety, different doses, and immune responses. This vaccine is designed to target four kinds of the flu that spread seasonally every year.

If Moderna’s mRNA flu vaccine is effective in later trials, they’ll then aim to eventually bundle it with 3 other mRNA-based vaccines to create a yearly one-stop-shot. That shot would include 2 common seasonal respiratory viruses and COVID-19 — which some scientists have speculated could possibly become seasonal.

Moderna’s CEO believes that mRNA technology gives them the ability to respond to rapidly changing respiratory viruses to make vaccines to improve accuracy and efficacy. For example, once scientists determine what strain of the flu is going around that year, they could turn out a vaccine based off that strain in a matter of 6 weeks.

Secondly, to knock out 4 viruses in a single shot could mean we wouldn’t have to spend our holiday seasons with a runny nose, cough and flu like symptoms; all of which improves public health and productivity.

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