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Covid-19 Pandemic Drives RNA Therapeutics into the Mainstream

With messenger RNA being pushed to the market in record time and Alnylam’s historic approval of an RNA interference drug, the field of RNA therapeutics is now moving faster than ever before.

Recently, both BioNTech and Moderna have generated enormous publicity as their Covid-19 vaccines edge closer to approval. Just today, BioNTech’s vaccine was greenlit in the UK, making it the first messenger RNA (mRNA) therapeutic to ever be approved, with vaccine rollouts expected to begin next week.

“The phenomenal success of the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine development will provide acceptance of this technology and increase the interest for the general public, patients, care providers, and investors alike,” said Thomas Thum, CSO and co-founder of Cardior Pharmaceuticals, a German biotech developing RNA drugs to treat heart failure.

The brand new technology behind these vaccines consists of providing our cells with the precise instructions they need to produce proteins of the Covid-19 virus, which trains the immune system to recognize and neutralize it. But this is not the only application of RNA technology.

Another form of RNA, called RNA interference (RNAi), is already in use to treat rare conditions by selectively turning off the expression of certain faulty genes into proteins. This month, the RNAi drug Oxlumo — developed by the US biotech Alnylam — was approved by the EMA and US FDA. It’s the first-ever treatment for the rare kidney condition primary hyperoxaluria.

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