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Arab Health 2021: RNA Vaccines, a New Era of Therapeutics

Arab Health 2021: RNA Vaccines, a New Era of Therapeutics
Messenger RNA or mRNA strand 3D rendering illustration with copy space. (Credit: iStock)

How do RNA vaccines work? What are their possible development and role in the context of Covid-19? This topic will be discussed during a conference to be held as part of the Arab Health Summit that will take place from June 21st-24th at the Dubai World Trade Center and from May 23rd to July 22nd on a digital platform.

There seems to be no possible silver lining to a pandemic that has so far killed over three million people and disrupted the lives of so many more in unthinkable ways. Nonetheless, it was precisely the scale and the unprecedented nature of this situation that has allowed science to achieve within months advances that in normal circumstances would have taken years—or even decades. The rapid development of RNA vaccines is probably the most remarkable example of this.

Dr. Sarfaraz Niazi, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will be one of the participants in the conference “RNA Vaccines—A New Era of Therapeutics” in which the current status of vaccines with their pros and cons will be discussed. He explained:

“Covid-19 brought an opportunity to test their efficacy in conditions that would never exist in normal circumstances. With infections and deaths soaring, it was possible to test the RNA vaccines in thousands of people—something that couldn’t possibly be done with patients suffering from cancer, the primary target of this new technology.”

Producing RNA Vaccines Within Days

Dubai marina. Arab Health is the largest international exhibition and conference event for healthcare in the Middle East and North Africa region. (Credit: iStock)

Ordinary vaccines make our immune system build a defense against a particular virus.

RNA vaccines work on the same principle, but with an entirely different method: instead of using an attenuated or inactive virus, they use the mRNA (or messenger ribonucleic acid, a molecule which carries instructions to our cells for protein synthesis and other biological functions) coded to instruct our bodies to synthesize the SARS-CoV-2’s antigen spike proteins, which then stimulates an immune response without any derivation of the virus itself being present; thus preparing the immune system to fight the real thing.

Another important topic to be considered during the conference is the need to encourage developing countries to become self-sufficient in producing vaccines since newer technologies have reduced the previous challenges of establishing vaccine manufacturing capability. RNA vaccines, for example, can be developed within days rather than in the months or years needed for other types. This also significantly reduces costs.

Dr. Niazi said:

“It is anticipated that most developing countries will now be able to become self-sufficient in vaccines. And this is a major change in the world, perhaps the most dramatic moment in the science of disease prevention.”

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