Explained: India’s first mRNA Covid vax

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India is soon set to begin human trials on its first home-grown Covid vaccine based on Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals is making India’s first mRNA vaccine known as HGC019, in collaboration with US-based HDT Bio Corp.

In August, the Drug Controller General of India had approved the Phase 2 and 3 clinical trials.

“The Vaccine Subject Expert Committee (SEC) reviewed the data, and found HGCO19 to be safe, tolerable, and immunogenic in the participants of the study,” the company had said in a statement.

The company will start testing the vaccine on humans for efficacy and immunogenicity from next month. The mRNA vaccine is also reportedly effective against the newA Omicron variant.

The mRNA vaccines carry the molecular information to make the protein in the host using the synthetic RNA of the virus. The host body produces the viral protein that is recognised by the immune system, thereby enabling the body to fight against the disease.

mRNA vaccines are considered safe as mRNA is non-infectious, non-integrating in nature, and degraded by standard cellular mechanisms. They are highly efficacious because of their inherent capability of being translated into proteins in the cell.

These vaccines also represent a promising alternative to conventional vaccine approaches because of their high potency, capacity for rapid development, and potential for low-cost manufacture and safe administration.

Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades. It can be developed in a laboratory using readily available materials, meaning the manufacturing can be faster.

mRNA vaccines have elicited potent immunity against infectious disease targets in animal models of influenza virus, Zika virus, rabies virus and others, especially in recent years.

It has also been employed in numerous cancer clinical trials, with some promising results showing antigen-specific T cell responses and prolonged disease-free survival in some cases.

Future mRNA vaccine technology may allow for one vaccine to provide protection against multiple diseases, thus decreasing the number of shots needed for protection against common vaccine-preventable diseases.

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