Scientists have long worked on mRNA technology, which is different from traditional vaccine methods, to treat different diseases. But when the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, this technology was quickly adapted for the first time against the coronavirus, with great success. MRNA, or the long name “messenger RNA” (ribonucleic acid), is known as a biomolecule produced from DNA. In mRNA vaccines, unlike traditional vaccines, the body receives mRNA from a virus protein instead of the attenuated pathogen. Thus, it is aimed at the immune system to act without the virus and to produce antibodies against the virus. There are also success stories in this area.
It is stated that this safe and effective technology may also work against certain viruses, such as HIV, which are described as “old enemies”. The technology was already being tested for the treatment of potent cancers such as melanoma and brain tumors. Indeed, Dr. Özlem Türeci, one of the founders of BioNTech, announced the good news that cancer vaccines would be ready in a few years.
The founders of BioNTech, Prof. Dr. Uğur Şahin and his wife, Dr. Özlem Türeci have been working on mRNA technology for some time.
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The foundation for the mRNA vaccine was laid in the 1990s by genetic studies by Hungarian-born scientist Katalin Kariko at the University of Pennsylvania. Although Kariko couldn’t find much support for the idea at the time, Dr., who has been an epidemic disease specialist at the same university for 15 years. He conducted joint vaccine studies with Drew Weissman. Speaking to CNN, Dr. Weissman described as “revolutionary” in this area, that even a virus is not needed in the production of mRNA vaccines. In this context, he draws attention to the fact that mRNA vaccine trials began immediately after China released the genetic codes for the SARS-COV-2 virus known as COVID-19.
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Moderna and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines, produced with mRNA technology, are over 90% effective against the virus.