The Covid-19 vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer, based on the messenger RNA molecule, can open the door to many other medications and vaccines with which to address other pathologies, including cancer, according to the experts at the meeting ‘The unlimited future of RNA applications: Vaccines and treatment of diseases’ held at the Ramón Areces Foundation.

At the meeting, also organized by the Spanish Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (Sebbm), the professor of Genetics at the University of Malaga, Enrique Viguera Mínguez, He denied that these techniques are new: “We have been working on them since the 90s. RNA is based on the use of this therapeutic molecule to direct the synthesis of a protein that is missing or defective in our body and whose absence causes genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and other metabolic pathologies ”.

For her part, the director of the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center, Lourdes Ruiz Desviat, stated that, apart from the two RNA-based vaccines against Covid-19, there are 15 drugs already in use approved by the European and North American drug agencies and that another 30 are in different phases of clinical trials.

“Among the drugs that use RNA and that are already being applied successfully, we can talk about Spinraza for spinal muscular atrophy. It is a fatal disease in children, who die after two years. With this drug not only is mortality avoided, but these little ones can develop practically normal motor function. The market for RNA-based therapies is growing dramatically. “

Cancer vaccines

During this meeting, María de la Fuente Freire, from the Nano-Oncology Unit of the Santiago de Compostela Health Research Institute, explained already working on the development of possible RNA-based cancer vaccines.

Pancreatic cancer

“Cancer vaccines have been explored since the 1990s and there is huge potential already working with these molecules. There is a very interesting application of RNA using massive sequencing techniques, to move towards personalized medicine. All this would not be possible without an important technological development that allows us to study the evolution of tumors in real time and try to understand what makes them different from one another. We are experiencing a tremendous revolution ”, he explains.

To this he added that “Tumors are dynamic”, hence the importance of studying them in real time. “They can change their genotype according to the treatments we apply and also other factors.”

Covid-19 vaccines

Likewise, the director of the Severo Ochoa Molecular Biology Center recalled how Moderna, who integrated RNA in her name when she was born, emerged to correct genetic mutations. Regarding Pfizer, he stressed that it is not the first time that it has tried to develop vaccines based on this tool: “When the influenza A epidemic was detected in 2008, this laboratory already thought about developing a platform with this technique.

Shortly after, in 2013, faced with the bird flu epidemic, they were already able in just eight days to obtain the proof of concept, producing the RNA that synthesized the protein and that was going to serve to produce antibodies. Now is when they have been able to apply all that knowledge, ”said Ruiz Desviat.

The three participants in this online meeting at the Ramón Areces Foundation agreed on the importance of supporting basic science to continue advancing. At this point, María de la Fuente Freire considered that “this type of research, for which there is no immediate application, are fundamental.”

“Without a good foundation, everything else cannot develop. We have to be cautious about the system of meritocracy and continuous evaluation. If we researchers evaluate them every two years, they can’t afford to do risky long-term basic science work. Research has its times ”.


04 JUN 2021



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