Moderna gave its mRNA-based seasonal flu vaccine to the first set of volunteers in a clinical trial, the pharmaceutical company announced today. After the huge success of the COVID-19 vaccine, the next step in the company’s research into this type of vaccine technology is the start of the trial.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA vaccines were still largely experimental, even as they were heralded as the future of vaccine development. The mRNA vaccine is injected with small amounts of the target virus’ genetic material. The genetic information is used by their cells to create bits of virus which are then fought off by the body’s immune system.
The high efficacy of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech was a major endorsement for this type of vaccine. Pharmaceutical companies are now planning to use this technology in the fight against other infectious diseases such as flu. The flu shots available each year in the United States are usually between 40 and 60 percent effective. Most flu shots are made by infecting the influenza virus with chicken eggs or cells. The virus is then killed so that it no longer poses a threat. The virus is difficult to grow so companies must start the shots at least six months in advance, based upon predictions about which strain will be most prevalent that year.
Pharma companies believe that mRNA-based flu shots will be more effective than traditional shots. They would be easier to produce and could be more closely matched to the flu season.
Moderna is the second group to start testing its mRNA flu shot in human trials — Sanofi and Translate Bio kicked off a trial this summer. Pfizer, BioNTech and Translate Bio has been keen to test mRNA flu shot for some time. They are now pushing ahead with their plans.
Moderna hopes to create combination vaccines that can protect against the flu and COVID-19 in one shot.