UK announces mNRA leadership intent

As the world hails a new malaria vaccine which has been described as a gamechanger, a new report by the BioIndustry Association (BIA) reveals how the UK is poised to become a global leader in mRNA medicine.

The use of mRNA was a key part of the development of vaccines during the COVID pandemic but the BIA said the emerging technology has vast potential beyond COVID.

The importance of the technology has been highlighted by the recent Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine award to Dr Katalin Kariko and Dr Drew Weissman for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.

Earlier this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) has authorised an affordable malaria vaccine that can be produced on a huge scale, with capacity for 100 million doses to be produced each year.

Developed by a team at the University of Oxford it is just the second malaria vaccine to be created, and used lessons learned from the way in which mRNA tackled the COVID virus.

Steve Bates, CEO of the BIA, said the UK is set to take a global leadership in the use and development of the technology.

“mRNA Revolution: A New Generation of Medicine explains how the UK will lead the way in developing and delivering next-generation mRNA medicines for a wide range of diseases, beyond just COVID-19,” he explained. “This new report explains not only the technology and its potential but lifts the lid on why the UK has the capability, people, and vision to lead the world in delivering the next generation of medicines”.

Bates continued: “The UK is well positioned to gain a significant slice of this new global industry as we have key expertise and capability in the difficult role of developing and manufacturing at scale these new therapeutics. The UK mRNA ecosystem has both a thriving academic community and vibrant small companies and has attracted the investment and engagement of key global companies leading in the space. At the same time, the UK has proven itself to be the fastest regulator, payer, and adopter of the first new vaccines produced from this technology and is an exciting hub for innovation. Crucially the UK has developed industrial strategy to invest in the training of a workforce skilled to pioneer in this new advanced area. By raising awareness of the potential of the UK ecosystem in mRNA technology, we can make the UK a leading player in mRNA research and development.”

The report, entitled the mRNA Revolution highlighted the UK’s leading position in the development of mRNA technology, citing its strong foundation in research and development and the presence of several companies developing mRNA-based products. In 2020, the government announced £200 million in funding for mRNA research and development. This funding is being used to support a range of projects, including the development of new mRNA vaccines, the development of mRNA-based treatments for cancer, and the development of new delivery methods for mRNA.

The publication was launched yesterday at the inaugural RNA Vaccines and Therapeutics Conference organised by CPI and Imperial College London, which continues today at the Royal Academy of Engineering.