RNA is a powerful tool,
with valuable applications in multiple economic sectors
Scientists are beginning to leverage the fundamental biological principles of RNA to create medicines, pesticides, and new research tools. Canada has the potential to be a world leader this revolution.
The socio-economic impact of RNA technology is growing exponentially and is expected to reach over 150 billion US dollars by 2026. Already, the world is gearing up to this RNA revolution with many countries establishing special strategic programs in RNA science. Canada boasts a dynamic life sciences and biotechnology sector with over $54 billion in annual revenue in 2018. RNA-enabled technologies are becoming an integral part of this global national picture (for example, with Moderna constructing an RNA vaccine manufacturing plant in Quebec). Government agencies are also starting to recognize RNA as central in future efforts towards pandemic preparedness (for example, through the Canada Biomedical Research Fund program). On the other hand, while the federal Tri-Council framework currently supports RNA research through competitive peer-reviewed grant applications, this effort is not tied to a national strategy that would promote the development of RNA science. Therefore, it is RNA Canada ARN’s mission to transform Canadian RNA research into an efficient, effective, flexible and competitive pipeline dedicated to RNA discoveries and their optimal use for the benefit of all Canadians.
Benefits of RNA
as a tool:
Highly scalable: We have technologies to make large quantities of RNA quickly (e.g. vaccines, biopesticides).
Known code and rules: We can alter RNA sequences to match specific targets or produce specific proteins with ease.
Does not alter the genome: RNA is a relatively fragile natural molecule and does not persist for long periods in our bodies or cells, nor does it change our DNA, making it a safe biomolecule.
• mRNA vaccines help us to fight off infectious diseases (e.g. SARS-CoV-2, RSV, CMV, Influenza) and cancer. Here, mRNA that encodes proteins we would like to raise an immune response against is introduced into the body. The body attacks the foreign proteins, leading to immunity against viruses or killing cancerous cells.
• RNAs are being used as treatments for hereditary and genetic diseases, such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and others. In these examples, small RNAs are generally used to stop the production of malfunctioning proteins.
• mRNA vaccines, similar to those developed for humans, against infectious diseases and parasites promote healthier, more robust livestock and increase the efficiency of commercial meat production.
• RNA-based biopesticides combat infectious diseases and parasites of key crops, such as corn, wheat, and rice. Here, small RNAs matching sequences only present in the pest’s genome (DNA) are administered to specifically kill the pest and not the plant.
→ Fundamental discoveries about RNA can be harnessed as new technologies. These new tools can accelerate scientific discovery and the development of new therapies or agricultural applications.
• Examples include CRISPR and RNAi, which are natural anti-viral defense systems in different organisms. Scientists have used CRISPR to modify the DNA of laboratory organism and cells, to understand how genetic mutations can cause disease. Scientists have used RNAi to stop the production of proteins in organisms and cells, to understand the functions of these proteins. Currently, several RNAi-based treatments are in use against hereditary diseases.
RNA in Human Disease
$43B -> $128B
RNA in Agriculture
$8B -> $17B
RNA in Biotechnology
$2.5B -> $10B