RNA stands for ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all living cells. Its principal role is to act as a messenger, carrying instructions from DNA for controlling the synthesis of proteins. Although, in some viruses, RNA rather than DNA carries the genetic information. COVID-19 is an example of an RNA virus.
There are more than 20,000 protein coding RNA molecules in humans. The way we have developed drugs in the past has been by producing drugs that interact with the key protein that was altered due to contracting the disease.
A poster child for this concept is Herceptin, which is a manmade antibody that blocks the action of a protein called “human epidermal growth factor” coded for by a gene called ERBB2 or Her2.
A significant number of cancer drugs have been developed using this proven method, however the cancer cells often mutate, rendering the drug ineffective.
Today it is possible to interact with the RNA in cancer and other cells in a number of novel ways, some that make the RNA “drug-able”, and others that make the RNA a drug itself.
The fact that the Moderna and Pfizer’s RNA vaccines have close to 90% efficacy, exceeding the effectiveness of more traditional vaccines, has provided us with hope for a future where COVID-19 is no longer deadly.
That changes everything !
It takes less time to develop RNA therapeutics than traditional therapeutics because you skip two difficult and time consuming steps. These two steps are making protein based on the code, and manufacturing the protein.
RNA therapeutics goes directly from RNA code information to manufacturing of the RNA therapeutics in one quick step.
The hurdle has been that RNA isn’t stable, its designed to be a transient molecule in our biology. The second hurdle has been to get the RNA into the cells.
Both BioNtech/Pfizer and Moderna have overcome those two hurdles and are now in the late stages of a clinical study with an RNA COVID19 vaccine.
That is the largest proof of concept that either company could have dreamt of and it changes everything in healthcare going forward.
Welcome to a new world where healthcare becomes an informatics industry
In this new world of healthcare, RNA information can be used to develop drugs in as little as a few months, and biology becomes an informatics industry where the main hurdle is to obtain the relevant information.
Most existing drugs were developed at a time when technology was less advanced, and drugs were developed and prescribed based on ONE biomarker in ONE type of cancer.
Some of these drugs were breakthrough discoveries that improved the life span for 20% of patients in situations where there were no longer treatments available.
However, what about the 80% that wasn’t helped by this treatment ? They took the drug and suffered from the side effects but did not live longer.
What if the patient’s best course of treatment could have been identified using diagnostics solutions that doesn’t rely on just one marker, so they didn’t have to go through the trial and error process of finding the right treatment ?
Going from analog diagnostics to digital diagnostics
Analog diagnostics using ONE marker that allows doctors to identify ONE drug based on a simple test. This is an over simplification of the complexity of biology.
However every tumor is different and once we stop trying to generalize cancer treatment by treating cohorts and instead treat individual people, we can potentially make cancer a chronic disease and even cure it.
Today, RNA sequencing can provide this information, however the process is cumbersome, expensive and slow. Furthermore, the R&D version of this technology doesn’t work in real clinical samples. Finally RNA sequencing produces 3 GB of data which is great for research but the doctor doesn’t know what do with it.
Genomic Expression has developed novel methods to sequence all RNA’s and make clinical interpretations of this information. The information found can be as powerful as a new drug by simply connecting the RNA information to the drug that interact with those RNAs.
Instead of a cancer patient waiting three months to see if a treatment works and getting another scan, we envision inexpensive personalized diagnostic tests that can monitor the patients response or relapse in a simple blood sample.
We have proven this method works in several cancer types and we are looking for collaborators to bring our solution to market.
It won’t take long - we are already operating in a CLIA lab and can start analyzing samples by early January 2021.
RNA is the power molecule to watch
RNA is a powerful molecule that provides us information about the presence of a disease, as well as cures for that disease. Using digital diagnostics, we can deliver healthcare in novel ways. By using Telehealth instead of waiting until serious symptoms occur, we can monitor health and potentially intervene by reversing the effects of age and lifestyle.
Disease doesn’t happen overnight, and many chronic diseases take decades to develop. Intervention is often non-therapeutic during this time. Combining our OneRNA® platform with testing, enables a powerful platform to sustain health. Today, diagnostics is only 2% of total healthcare cost. Enabling people to monitor their health is the only way we can reduce cost of care.