Vaccines for cancer and heart disease ‘could be ready by 2030’


imageNew vaccines for a range of serious health conditions including cancer and heart disease will be ready by 2030, experts believe.Doctors hope to achieve this using the same mRNA technology used for Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines.The therapy, which teaches the body how to produce a defensive protein, could result in a breakthrough for patients with illnesses that cannot be treated with drugs.Moderna’s chief medical officer, Dr Paul Burton, has said the treatment has the potential to save “many hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives” as early as 2030.Biopsies of patients’ tumours and a machine learning algorithm could allow scientists to create ‘personalised’ vaccines.Credit: PA He told the Guardian: “I think we will have mRNA-based therapies for rare diseases that were previously undruggable, and I think 10 years from now, we will be approaching a world where you can truly identify the genetic cause of the disease and, with relative simplicity, go and edit that out and repair it using mRNA-based technology.”Administering an mRNA-based cancer vaccine on someone who already has cancer will be able to alert the immune system into fighting back, without destroying healthy cells.Using biopsies of a patient’s tumour, doctors can use a machine learning algorithm to identify which mutations are driving the cancer’s growth.A molecule of mRNA is then produced to create antigens that will trigger the appropriate immune response, essentially meaning that patients will be given “personalised” vaccines.Dr Burton said the Covid-19 pandemic meant Moderna had to “scale up manufacturing” of mRNA vaccines, meaning the firm is now highly skilled at producing large quantities at speed.However, scientists have warned that despite the increased momentum in response to the pandemic, a high level of investment will need to be maintained to avoid wasting that progress.

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