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Flu: soon all vaccinated with messenger RNA? – Health



More and more laboratories are embarking on the development of vaccines against the influenza virus using this new technology. World leader in influenza, Sanofi has thus started its trials of a monovalent RNA vaccine – targeting a single strain of virus – and will begin trials on a quadrivalent vaccine next year.

The hopes of messenger RNA

Pfizer and Moderna in the starting blocks

In September, Pfizer made the first injections into humans of an influenza vaccine using messenger RNA, already used in its vaccine against covid-19. For its part, Moderna had launched its own tests in early July.

What is the interest of this technology, which has been proven against covid-19, but has never been used against other viruses? Flu vaccines have been around for a long time. However, their effectiveness is not total: they use inactivated viruses, which must be prepared well in advance, for an effectiveness which varies between 40% and 60%, or even 70%.

“Six months before the epidemic, we assess the strains that circulate the most. Sometimes, we make mistakes and this creates a significant excess mortality, ”explains Claude-Agnès Reynaud, immunologist and research director at Inserm.

In addition, “the problem with inactivating a virus to prepare a vaccine is that it can damage certain surface proteins,” she says, the very ones that trigger the immune response.

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Up to 95% efficiency?

Conversely, messenger RNA does not need to produce antigens (the substance foreign to the body that triggers the immune response) in millions of eggs, since it is the human cell that will produce it. even, the proteins of the virus.

“If the World Health Organization (which indicates the strains to use, Editor’s note) warns that there is a change in the prevalent strains, we can change much faster with RNA than with existing technology,” emphasizes Jean-Jacques Le Fur, analyst at Bryan, Garnier & Co. With, the key, an increased efficiency which could reach 95%.

Many researchers are therefore on the track. Norbert Pardi, a vaccine specialist at the University of Pennsylvania, has, in particular, looked into the question by formulating, using messenger RNA, several antigens in a single vaccine, which he tested on mice. “These multivalent vaccines will probably cause an overall superior immune response (to current vaccines against influenza, Editor’s note)”, he anticipates.

We will have to arrive at thermostable vaccines, which can be stored in the fridge at 2 ° to 8 °, in syringes

This technology nevertheless has drawbacks, including very low temperature storage conditions. “We will have to arrive at thermostable vaccines, which can be stored in the fridge at 2 ° to 8 °, in syringes. There are many things to do to convert messenger RNA to influenza, ”recently explained Thomas Triomphe, vice-president of the vaccines branch of Sanofi.

Without forgetting the “question of acceptability: by the time these vaccines arrive, the population will be reassured about this technology or will it always be reluctant?” », Asks Jean-Jacques Le Fur.

“A very attractive market”

Not enough to discourage appetites, however. “Sanofi has understood that it cannot ignore this technology. Flu vaccines represent 2.5 billion euros in sales for them each year, ”he adds. “It’s a very attractive market for large laboratories. Apart from Moderna, which is new in this sector, the others, such as Sanofi, AstraZeneca or GSK, are very well established on the flu, ”notes Jamila El Bougrini, biotech specialist at stock market analyst Invest Securities. “This represented $ 5 billion in sales in 2020. In 2021, $ 6.5 billion or even $ 7 billion are expected,” she analyzes, with annual growth of 7% to 8% expected for the period 2020-2026.



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