COVID-19 Related – Modified alphavirus replicons as vaccine or gene delivery vectors

mRNA as a delivery tool for vaccines and gene therapies is quickly gaining traction following the approval and deployment of the mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines. While maintaining the same advantages to mRNA vaccines over conventional methods, self-amplifying RNAs (saRNA) are capable of self-replicating, effectively increasing the dose delivered compared against an equal amount of mRNA. UAB researchers have developed saRNA vectors from modified alphavirus replicons (Venezualan equine encephalitis virus, Chikungunya virus, Sindbis virus) that have disabled viral packaging machinery but have functional and amplifiable saRNA transcripts. These modified replicons have potential use for vaccines against the same alphaviruses they were derived from, which are a growing global threat. Furthermore, they can be adapted as vectors for vaccination against other peptides or to encode a therapeutic protein. The global market for mRNA vaccines & therapeutics was worth 587.7 million USD in 2019 and is expected to reach USD 2.91 billion USD in 2026, growing at a CAGR of 28.51% from 2020 to 2026. The gene therapy market is robust, with a 2018 market value of $536 million and a CAGR of 34%. With the proven success of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, these saRNA vectors could potentially lead to the next generation of RNA based therapeutics. C Scott Swindle swin@uab.edu (205) 996-7578

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