Novel biotechnology platform-based techniques have paved way for fast development of vaccines including customized ones and the new approach is much more flexible than traditional means of vaccine production.
Researchers have examined the transition from traditional to biotechnology platforms and come to a conclusion that such smart manufacturing techniques could in the future be applied to other viruses, potentially allowing vaccine development to keep pace with constantly evolving pathogens. Findings of the analysis were published by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering.
Researchers are of the opinion that the new technologies are more versatile than vaccines designed and manufactured using traditional methods. For those of you who are not aware, biotechnology platform-based vaccine development involves cultivating a flexible baseline structure that can be customized as needed to create new vaccines for related viruses. When pathogens mutate, researchers identify the changes and then apply them to the existing structure.
Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna used one such platform, based on messenger RNA, to develop their vaccines. The mRNA platform had already been designed to serve as the basis of a vaccine for coronaviruses, which include the common cold and mutate rapidly. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was sequenced within one year of the start of the pandemic. Researchers used this information to modify the existing mRNA platform to develop a vaccine tailored to that version of SARS-CoV-2 — a process that took less than a week once they had the genetic data. Johnson & Johnson used a similar approach called viral vector. In contrast, traditional vaccine manufacturing, which involves the culture of disease-causing pathogens and the injection of some form of these pathogens, can take 10 to 15 years to develop.
Biotechnology-based techniques have the potential to drive future research for viruses beyond COVID-19, such as the flu. A smart manufacturing approach using systems that gather, store and transmit high-quality process data could facilitate connections between devices during each stage of the vaccine development and manufacturing process.