Beyond the Coronavirus Vaccine – mRNA Cancer Treatment – Manufacturing America


The Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccines represent the first two vaccines based on mRNA technology approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. Although people may perceive mRNA technology as new, medical researchers have explored it as the next step in the development of cancer vaccines and treatments since the 1990s. In addition to the potential of mRNA to producing vaccines against vexing diseases, such as Ebola or HIV, researchers also believe in its potential for cancer treatments. Just as mRNA can teach the human body to attack a virus, it could train the immune system to attack cancerous tumor cells.

How does an mRNA vaccine work?

DNA in cells builds messengers, called mRNAs, which trigger the production of proteins needed for a cell to function. An mRNA vaccine creates the message that the body must create a protein specific to the target pathogen. In the case of the coronavirus, an mRNA vaccine tells the immune system of a protein that the virus needs. This allows for an immune response which attacks the protein and therefore eliminates the ability of the virus to function in the body.

Potential cancer therapies

BioNTech and Moderna also have cancer research programs. In July 2020, BioNTech entered into a collaboration with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to study a treatment for melanoma based on the experimental mRNA vaccine BNT111 FixVac. BNT111 is designed to elicit anti-tumor responses using four antigens.

COVID-19 vaccine vial prop – mRNA. Credit: Spencerbdavis

As for Moderna, researchers at this pharmaceutical company want to create personalized cancer vaccines. Research relies on the sequencing of mutations found in an individual’s cancer cells. A personalized mRNA vaccine would then be adapted to these mutations and would theoretically lead to an attack on the patient’s immune system against the cancer.

Will the development of revolutionary cancer treatments be the silver lining in the coronavirus pandemic?

ABOUT Moderna

Every cell in the body uses mRNA to provide real-time instructions to make the proteins needed to drive all aspects of biology, including human health and disease.

Given its essential role, we believe that mRNA could be used to create a new class of drugs with significant potential to improve the lives of patients.

We are the pioneers of a new class of messenger RNA or mRNA drugs. The potential implications of using mRNA as a drug are significant and far-reaching and could dramatically improve the way drugs are discovered, developed, and manufactured.

Since our inception in 2010, we have worked to build the industry-leading mRNA technology platform, infrastructure to accelerate drug discovery and early development, a rapidly expanding pipeline and a world class team. Our portfolio includes development candidates for vaccines and mRNA-based therapies spanning multiple therapeutic areas, and we have several ongoing clinical trials with other development candidates moving into clinical practice. In addition, we have many discovery programs that are progressing towards development.

ABOUT Pfizer

Ever since Charles Pfizer invented an almond-flavored pest control medicine in 1849, our people have always been innovators and pioneers, determined to find the next cure.

Pfizer is dedicated to improving your health and wellness by developing medicines and providing health tips and resources to help you manage a healthy lifestyle. Explore our health and wellness resources

At Pfizer, our biotechnology is our foundation. With 25,000 clinical researchers testing every day, pharmaceutical development and innovation are our priority.

Our focus is rooted in our commitment to fund programs that provide public benefits, advance medical care, and improve patient outcomes. Our belief is that everyone deserves a healthy life. This motivates our desire to provide access to safe, effective and affordable medicines.


BioNTech was founded in 2008 with the idea that the tumor of each cancer patient is unique and that the treatment of each patient must therefore be individualized. To translate this idea into reality, we have combined groundbreaking research with cutting-edge technologies to develop pioneering therapies for cancer and beyond.

As we demonstrate the value of our clinical approach, we will continue to build the partnerships, manufacturing and team necessary to deliver individualized treatments to patients around the world. From our roots in Mainz, Germany, we are determined to become the world leader in biotechnology for individualized cancer medicine.

ABOUT the Food and Drug Administration

The Food and Drug Administration is the US federal government’s oldest comprehensive consumer protection agency. Since 1848, the federal government has used chemical analysis to monitor the safety of agricultural products – a responsibility inherited by the Department of Agriculture in 1862 and later by the FDA.

Although it was not known by its current name until 1930, the modern regulatory functions of the FDA began with the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906, a law in preparation for a quarter of century, which prohibited interstate trade in adulterated and mislabeled food and drugs. . Harvey Washington Wiley, chief chemist at the USDA Bureau of Chemistry, had been the driving force behind this law and led its enforcement in the early years, providing basic elements of protection that consumers had never known before. .

Since then, the FDA has changed with social, economic, political, and legal changes in the United States. Examining the history of these changes sheds light on the evolutionary role the FDA has played in promoting public health and offers lessons to consider when we assess current regulatory challenges.

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