CCMB develops India's first mRNA vaccine technology

Though Covid intensity is waning, investigators say the mRNA platform holds promise in dealing with infectious diseases India faces like Tuberculosis, Dengue, Malaria
Last Updated 14 May 2022, 02:15 IST

The CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology researchers are testing a mRNA vaccine candidate against Covid-19, having developed “India's first mRNA vaccine technology.”

The messenger RNA vaccines have gained popularity worldwide in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic. Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines are of the same category, which were leading the virus fight in the US and Europe.

Unlike the viral vector (Covishield) and whole virus (Covaxin) vaccines being used in the country, mRNA vaccine contains a synthetic version of SARS-CoV-2 genetic code (messenger RNA) which when administered guides the human cells to produce the Covid-19 spike protein. The immune response is thus triggered to deal with the actual infection.

The team at the Atal Incubation Centre-CCMB is leading the development of the vaccine candidate.

“Robust immune responses were observed against SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein in mice after administration of two doses of the mRNA. The anti-spike antibodies generated were found to be more than 90 per cent efficient in preventing the human ACE2 receptor binding to the Coronavirus,” said Dr Rajesh Iyer, a scientist involved in the project.

The mRNA vaccine candidate is at present undergoing preclinical challenge studies on hamsters at the IISc Bangalore, to evaluate the efficacy against live virus infection.

“We expect to go into the human clinical test phase early next year, in partnership with a corporate firm,” Dr Madhusudhana Rao, CEO, AIC-CCMB told DH.

However, CCMB's mRNA technology is not entirely its invention.

“We used the technical know-how from Moderna to establish our own mRNA vaccine technology and develop the homegrown mRNA vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2. It took us less than a year since the project inception in mid 2021,” Dr Rao said.

“We are not expecting any challenges from Moderna. As far as we understand, their patents are not protected in India,” Dr Rao said, when questioned about patent rights.

Dr Vinay Nandicoori, Director, CCMB says they are ready to partner with corporate biotech-pharma firms to scale-up the technology for commercial use.

Even as the Covid-19 intensity is waning, investigators say that the mRNA vaccine platform holds promise in dealing with infectious diseases India faces like Tuberculosis, Dengue, Malaria.

“We have demonstrated the replication of mRNA vaccine technology end-to-end. The beauty of this technology is in its modularity and rapid turn-around times. With significantly lesser efforts, the developed technology can be used to make vaccines for other infectious diseases,” Dr Nandicoori said.

(Published 13 May 2022, 13:59 IST)

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