DARPA Looking to Harness RNA for Vaccines
In September 2011, the RN Armor Vax international consortium in Orlando, FL received a $17.3 million technology investment agreement from US DARPA. Their research and development program is designed to “identify, investigate, and develop candidate RNA vaccines against infectious disease.” Work will be performed in Orlando, FL (19.59%); Lyon, France (11.93%); Tubingen, Germany (56.62%); and Nantes, France (11.86%). The work is expected to be completed by September 2015. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency manages the contract (HR0011-11-3-0001).
RNA is very useful for synthesizing proteins. This has led to research into ways of using it as a trigger, so that cells synthesize very specific proteins that will kill tumor cells, trigger correct immune responses, or perform other related functions. Dendritic immune cells, for instance, which stimulate the production of defensive killer T-cells, are a useful vector for RNA codes that direct the production of specific proteins. Another interesting function is RNA-enhanced vaccines using “silencing RNA,” which shuts down specific proteins in the cells that process a vaccine. That lets the vaccine offer more of an antibody response, which is very useful for parasitic infections, or create more of a cellular-kill response for viral infections.