Beijing, May 3 (IANS) A team of researchers from Chinese Internet giant Baidu has developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithm that can rapidly design highly stable Covid-19 mRNA vaccine sequences that were previously unattainable.
The algorithm, named LinearDesign, represents a major leap in both stability and efficacy for vaccine sequences, achieving a 128-fold increase in the Covid-19 vaccine’s antibody response. LinearDesign takes a mere 11 minutes to generate the most stable mRNA sequence that encodes Spike protein
“This research can apply mRNA medicine encoding to a wider range of therapeutic proteins, such as monoclonal antibodies and anti-cancer drugs, promising broad applications and far-reaching impact,” said Dr He Zhang, Staff Software Engineer at Baidu Research.
The study appeared in the scientific journal Nature.
LinearDesign borrows techniques from computational linguistics to design mRNA sequences with more-intricate shapes and structures than those used in current vaccines, Nature reported.
This enables the genetic material to persist for longer than usual. The more stable the mRNA that’s delivered to a person’s cells, the more antigens are produced by the protein-making machinery in that person’s body.
This, in turn, leads to a rise in protective antibodies, theoretically leaving immunised individuals better equipped to fend off infectious diseases, the report said.
mRNA, or Messenger RNA, has emerged as a revolutionary technology for vaccine development and potential treatments against cancer and other diseases. With numerous advantages in safety, efficacy, and production, mRNA has been swiftly adopted in the process of Covid-19 vaccine development.
However, the natural instability of mRNA results in insufficient protein expression that weakens a vaccine’s capacity to stimulate strong immune responses. This instability also poses challenges for storing and transporting mRNA vaccines, especially in developing countries where resources are often limited.
The sequences designed by LinearDesign exhibited significantly improved results compared to existing vaccine sequences. For Covid-19 mRNA vaccine sequences, the algorithm achieved up to a five-fold increase in stability (mRNA half-life), a three-fold increase in protein expression levels (within 48 hours), and an incredible 128-fold increase in antibody response.
“The vaccines designed through our method may offer better protection with the same dosage, and potentially provide equal protection with a smaller dose, leading to fewer side effects. This will greatly reduce the vaccine research and development costs for biopharmaceutical companies while improving the outcomes,” Dr Zhang added.