After COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna to use mRNA to fight flu, HIV and cancer

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FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2021, file photo, vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are placed next to a loaded syringe in Throop, Pa. On Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, California’s state epidemiologist Dr. Erica S. Pan recommended providers stop using lot 41L20A of the Moderna vaccine pending completion of an investigation by state officials, Moderna, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the federal Food and Drug Administration, because some people received medical treatment for possible severe allergic reactions. (Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune via AP, File)

(WTVO) — Drugmaker Moderna says the technology it used to develop a COVID-19 vaccine could be used to fight other virus, such as the flu, Zika, and HIV, and cancer.

According to Bloomberg, the company has vaccines for 10 viruses that are in, or about to be in, human trials.

The vaccines use mRNA (modified RNA) technology to deliver genetic code to the body’s cells, instructing them how to make virus proteins that provoke an immune response.

Vaccines based on the technology are relatively new, and began in earnest in 2005. Many flu vaccines are made inside chicken eggs, and grow viral proteins within vats of live cells. But mRNA instructs the body to create its own proteins within its own cells.

Moderna began working on a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as Chinese scientists released the RNA sequence for the novel coronavirus in January 2020. It will produce up to 1 billion doses of its vaccine this year.

The company is hoping its technology will allow it to create flu shots that more closely match strains in circulation each year, to improve on efficacy rates, typically between 40% and 60%.

It’s goal is to create a seasonal vaccine which would pack as many as a dozen or so viral strains in one shot.

“If you could get a combo shot that gives you a degree of protection against a lot of respiratory viruses, I think there would be a market for that,” said Tony Moody, a researcher at Duke Human Vaccine Institute, who is working on mRNA-based flu vaccines.

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