mRNA-LNP COVID-19 Vaccines
When asked about the work we do at Acuitas Therapeutics by those who aren’t in our field, it can be a little challenging to explain. We specialize in the development of lipid nanoparticle delivery systems for molecular therapeutics, which sounds a bit overwhelming to the average person. We get that. In lay terms, what we do is work with partners to develop drugs that use new technologies based on biological processes or compounds. These new technologies include messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which is a newer approach to vaccines. Many of these new technologies require a carrier to deliver them to where they are needed in the body. Acuitas provides its advanced lipid nanoparticle technology to meet this delivery need.
We are currently supporting several international partners in the development of mRNA-LNP COVID-19 vaccines. These partnerships include BioNTech (which is partnered with Pfizer), CureVac and Imperial College London – to name a few.
The mRNA technology codes for a protein made – in this case – by the novel coronavirus. The vaccines work by allowing the human immune system to recognize this protein so that the immune system can prevent the virus from infecting our cells and causing disease. A major advantage of mRNA vaccines over conventional vaccines is that they can be developed more rapidly in response to a new virus.
In a nutshell, the Acuitas Therapeutics technology allows the mRNA to work. When a synthetic mRNA is used as a vaccine (or a drug), there are two challenges: the mRNA is very fragile and if injected into the body, it would break down quickly; and it is also a very large biological molecule that cannot get into our cells without help. The technology developed by the Acuitas team provides tiny delivery vehicles (lipid nanoparticles) that protect the mRNA after it is injected. Then, the lipid nanoparticles carry the mRNA into the cells, allowing it to do its important job.
A good way to think of it is to imagine that you want to buy an exceptionally fragile glass ornament online and you want to have it delivered to your home. If you used the equivalent of the Acuitas Therapeutics delivery technology, the ornament would be packed inside a carrier to shield it. No matter how bumpy or rough the journey was, the Acuitas Therapeutics delivery technology would make sure that the ornament was protected. The carrier would find your house, open the front door by itself, let itself in, unwrap your glass ornament, and leave it exactly where you asked for it to be placed in your home.
The Acuitas team is working day and night to support our partners on the development of their COVID-19 vaccines. Like everyone around the globe, our staff is eager to see positive clinical trials that would allow for these vaccines to be available to the public so that society can start to get back to “normal.”