With two companies leading the way in development of an mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine to ward off COVID-19, one Houston Methodist physician researcher sees it as the first step for what has the potential to become the therapy of the future for all types of diseases. John Cooke, MD, PhD, director of the Research Institute’s RNA therapeutics program, says mRNA is basically writing biological code to tell our bodies what proteins to make. Scientists need only the genomic sequence of the virus to come up with strategies to intervene.
“Most vaccines today are still viral vaccines – they are inactivated virus, so it’s potentially infectious and you have to have virus on hand,” Cooke said. “With mRNA, you’re just writing code which is going to tell the cell to make a viral protein – one part of a viral protein to stimulate an immune response. And, here’s the wonderful thing, you don’t even need the virus in hand, just its DNA code.” His team is working with Houston Methodist’s nanomedicine team to develop better delivery options for mRNA, and he sees its potential in many fields: cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, other infectious diseases and even rejuvenation.
Dr. John Cooke is available for interviews to discuss the process and promise of mRNA technology.