UCC researcher Piotr Kowalski partnering with MIT collaborative research group exploring cRNA

Why Rings of RNA Could be the Next Blockbuster Drug https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-03058-7

Recently RNA technology has undeniably made groundbreaking progress, particularly with the advent of the COVID-19 vaccine, proof of its remarkable potential. This achievement was further emphasized when the Nobel Prize was awarded to two pioneers in the field, Kariko and Weissman, for their contributions to the development of mRNA-based vaccines.

However, even with this great success, there remain challenges associated with the linear form of mRNA, particularly in terms of its stability and therapeutic potential.

Recognizing these problems has turned attention towards circular RNA, a novel approach that holds the promise of resolving these issues.

One of the most intriguing aspects of circular RNA is its capacity to encode proteins, a capability that has sparked substantial interest and investment in its therapeutic potential. For a long time, however, scientists were limited in their ability to synthesize circular RNA sequences suitable for generating long protein-coded transcripts for more complex diseases.

It was not until Alex Wesselhoeft from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) embarked on experimenting with self-splicing sequences, one of the two established methods to synthesize circular RNA, that a breakthrough was on the horizon.

With his collaborators Piotr Kowalski from the University College Cork in Ireland and Dan Anderson at MIT, Wesselhoeft introduced complementary RNA segments and spacer sequences that enabled circularization and stabilized the hairpin structure.

The potential of circular RNA has attracted substantial investment, with more than one million US dollars already dedicated to funding biotech startups exploring its therapeutic applications, as reported by Nature Magazine. In the current landscape, the Wesselhoeft protocol stands as one of the most utilized techniques by biotech startups for circular RNA synthesis.

Read more about the remarkable capabilities of circular RNA and its potential to revolutionize the landscape of RNA-based therapeutics, as well as the challenges and obstacles that still lie ahead in the articles linked below.