After experimenting with the COVID19 shot, Moderna is going to apply new mRNA technology to the influenza shot. The company has started an early phase clinical trial of a new flu shot that will be based on mRNA technology. As per the report, participants have been given the first doses of the experimental mRNA-based flu shot in the trial. Experts have said that Moderna is going to test the new flu shot on nearly 180 people in the phase 1/2 randomized, stratified, and observer-blind trial. Heath experts who are involved in the trial will look into the different doses of the shot, immune responses generated after vaccination, and safety. This flu shot will be known as mRNA-1010. It will be developed to target four lineages of influenza viruses that spread in the communities each year. It will be the same as the existing quadrivalent flu shots in the market. These four lineages of the flu viruses have been found by the World Health Organization to be targeted to mitigate the spread each year. These four lineages are seasonal influenza type A lineages H1N1 and H3N2 and influenza type B lineages Victoria and Yamagata. Health experts have said that if mRNA-1010 proves to be effective in late-stage trials, the company will package it with three other mRNA shots to develop one seasonal shot. Along with influenza, this new combination shot will cater for other two common respiratory viruses that spread along with flu, such as a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human metapneumovirus (HMPV). This shot will target the SARS-CoV-2 virus as well which leads to COVID19 disease. Many health experts expect that COVID19 will become seasonal flu in the future.
At present, there is no authorized shot for RSV and HMPV. It is uncertain if the SARS-CoV-2 virus will turn into seasonal flu or a booster shot will be needed to reduce the spread each year. The CEO of Moderna, Stephane Bancel has said that there are many benefits of mRNA-based vaccines as these shots have the ability to combine various antigens to offer protection from multiple viruses. These vaccines also have the ability to mitigate the evolution of various respiratory pathogens such as influenza, RSV, and the SARS-CoV-2 virus. He has said that with this combination shot, people can easily get just one shot for high-level immunity from almost all deadly respiratory pathogens. The influenza vaccine alone is expected to offer a major upgrade as compared to the existing flu shot. Currently available quadrivalent and trivalent flu shots are considered to have low efficiency. They offer around 40 to 60 percent protection from flu viruses. Health experts have claimed that during some years, these vaccines have even lower efficiency against flu viruses. Moderna expects to beat these figures. After the soaring success of its mRNA-based COVID19 shot that has been proved to be 94 percent effective in the late-stage trial, the company is aiming high with its superior technology to fight against influenza. At present, the company has three mRNA-based shots under development, mRNA-1010, mRNA-1020, and mRNA-1030.
Health experts have said that mRNA technology delivers a snippet of a virus’s genetic code into human cells. The snippet of the virus’s genetic code is in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA). This kind of RNA works as an intermediary that transports coded information from DNA to the molecular machinery of cells, which decodes the code into proteins. The mRNA snippets that are present in the shots transport the blueprint for viral proteins that are used by the immune system for target practice. Scientists have said that mRNA-based shots provide a highly precise way to target flu viruses HA and NA as compared to existing flu shots. Currently available flu shots depend on exposing whole viruses, weakened or inactivated viruses to the immune system. With the use of mRNA technology, it is easy to modify the shots. When many deadly strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have started circulating around the world, the co-developer of mRNA-based Pfizer shot, BioNtech has said that the company can easily tweak its mRNA shot in just a few weeks. It is the biggest benefit of the mRNA-based influenza shot over currently available flu shots. Existing flu shots are often developed using fertilized hen eggs, shot developers administer the virus into the eggs and aid the virus to make legions of clones. Then, experts harvest the viruses, purify them and later kill or weaken them. In the later stage, it is used in the shots. This method is quite inexpensive and has been in use for decades. The process is highly time-consuming and it may not produce high-efficiency vaccines. This method lacks the accuracy like other strategies such as mRNA or recombinant proteins, said the experts. In this method, at times viruses start to adapt to their fowl orders. This issue has taken place in the 2017 and 2018 flu seasons in the US when the H3N2 flu virus strain has begun to pick up a mutation in its HA during egg-based vaccine making. Health experts have said that the mutation might have enabled the virus to infect chicken eggs in a better way, but in the vaccine, the mutation has refrained people from generating antibodies to fight against the H3N2 flu virus strain, which has been spreading among humans.