Seqirus, one of the largest influenza vaccine providers in the world, recently announced plans to accelerate the development of self-amplifying mRNA (sa-mRNA), its next generation mRNA influenza vaccine technology, with the creation of a dedicated mRNA business unit and senior leadership appointment to head the program.

Following positive pre-clinical results demonstrating potential for the technology in preventing influenza, Seqirus expects to commence clinical trials for both seasonal and pandemic sa-mRNA influenza vaccine candidates by mid-2022.

DocWire News spoke with Roberta Duncan, Seqirus’ recently appointed Vice President mRNA Program Lead, to discuss Seqirus’ commitment to advancing next-generation samRNA technology, and ways the technology shows great promise for effective influenza protection.

DocWire News: Can you describe your role as VP mRNA Program Lead at Seqirus?

Roberta Duncan: Yeah, this is a really exciting time for industry and for Seqirus as we continue advancing technology in the space of influenza protection and to help safeguard communities around the world. And as a leader on the front-line of influenza protection, we really see the critical role we must play in bringing this technology forward, developing it today, and for years to come. So in my new role, as the VP mRNA Program Lead, I’m accountable for driving the mRNA program with cross-functional and enterprise effort development through to commercialization as an advancement on our differentiated influenza vaccine portfolio.

What is samRNA and how is it different from other mRNA vaccines?

Both traditional mRNA and the next-generation samRNA, or self-amplifying mRNA, gives cells in the body instruction to make protein, which actually stimulates the immune response, and it helps the body recognize it in the future and fight infections. And so with self-amplifying mRNA, it also gives the body instruction to replicate the mRNA, and that in turn makes more protein and amplifies the amount of protein being made. And so with samRNA vaccines, it continues to give the body instructions. And as the vaccine allows for the ability for greater protein expression, we actually have the ability to administer the vaccine at a lower dose in comparison to traditional mRNA vaccines.

How far along is Seqirus in the development of samRNA technology?

The COVID-19 pandemic is really a once in a lifetime event, and it’s allowed for industry to advance research in mRNA technology, and in Seqirus, we actually have been working on the next-generation samRNA vaccine and will be building on the work we’ve been doing for a number of years and on mRNA technologies. We’re in the preclinical phase today, and our goal and our intent is to move into human clinical trials next year in 2022. And so as we continue on this development path, we’re going to let the science and the data lead us as we take these next steps.

Can you talk to us about the plans of samRNA against influenza?

In flu, in particular, we have seen promise in our preclinical work and seasonal influenza and pandemic preparedness for the samRNA technology. And so we’re going to continue advancing in our preclinical work, and then eventually progress into human clinical trials in 2022 and continue to build on the science of the data that, that we are going to generate over the course of time.

Will Seqirus be expanding its workforce to develop this technology?

Seqirus has and will continue to seek top talent in order to support our differentiated influenza portfolio and to bring technologies and influence protection to public health. And so we’ll do that by investing in career development and skill development in our current team members, and in bringing on additional employees in the future. And so, as we scale up mRNA, we will continue to expand our workforce and bring in additional expertise, and we look forward to sharing those details in the future.

Will Seqirus be expanding its global manufacturing capabilities?

Seqirus has as a global manufacturing network with sites in the US, the UK, and Australia, and that manufacturing network is scalable by design and built to support large-scale vaccine manufacturing programs. For the samRNA program, we are considering global locations and will continue to expand our manufacturing network, as this technology is incremental to our existing technologies. So as we continue to look at the opportunities of where we build this manufacturing capacity, we’ll be able to share details about that in the future.

Any closing thoughts?

As a leader on the front line of influenza of prevention and pandemic preparedness, Seqirus continues to remain focused in the space of influenza vaccines, and vaccinations remain mission critical for us. So as we continue in this space of influenza vaccines, there are many unknowns around the COVID pandemic, and as restrictions loosen, as we return to offices, as we return to schools, it’s important that we continue to support public health by providing influenza vaccines that are safe and effective, because with the changes in the COVID restrictions, we want to make sure that we are doing our best in controlling what we can against the resurgence of flu and is the potentially very serious virus. And so for us, we continue to be focused on the front-line of bringing influenza of protection and pandemic preparedness, and continuing to advance our technologies. We’re really excited about where we are and where we’re going.