BIO 2024: Exploring the Potential of mRNA

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Pharm Tech Group sits down with Bernard Sagaert, CEO of etherna, to examine the role of mRNA in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.


Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology was propelled into the limelight during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the pandemic, which saw mass vaccinations using mRNA-based vaccines and financial support for their production, had a significantly positive effect on the mRNA market that is predicted to grow to approximately $40 billion by 2033 (1).

Since the pandemic, much work has been done to explore other potential therapeutic applications of mRNA. One such area is autoimmune diseases, where etherna, a Belgian mRNA technologies company, has been working on a tolerizing mRNA-lipid nanoparticle (LNP) platform that restores immune homeostasis (2). “So together with [Hasselt University], we want to further develop our platform and make sure that we have all the data to show that this platform can be used in an autoimmune setting, and specifically that RNA and LNPs can be used in that setting,” notes Bernard Sagaert, CEO of etherna.

“Everybody knows that the RNA-LNP platforms have proven their use in vaccines,” Sagaert says. “The approach in autoimmune diseases is similar yet very different. You could call it an inverse vaccination, where the depletion of the disease-causing autoreactive T effector cells and the amplification of the regulatory T cells is what we’re looking for, and RNA-LNP technologies have the potential of doing that in different ways.”

Watch the video for the full interview. etherna will be exhibiting at the 2024 BIO International Convention in San Diego, Calif., from June 3–6.


1. Precedence Research. mRNA Therapeutics Market (by Application: Oncology, Respiratory Diseases, Infectious Diseases, Others; by Type: Prophylactic Vaccines, Therapeutic Vaccines; by End User: Hospitals and Clinics, Research Organizations, Other)—Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, Regional Outlook, and Forecast 2024–2033. Market Report, May 2024.
2. etherna. etherna and Hasselt University Announce Autoimmune mRNA Therapeutics Research Collaboration. Press Release. May 21, 2024.

Bernard comes with extensive operational and strategic experience in the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry. He has expertise in manufacturing and distribution, and has an extensive operational background, both in companies and as consultant. He is a pharmacist from the University of Leuven, (Belgium) and has obtained the qualification of Qualified Person. He was a former QA and Supply Chain Director at Mylan in Belgium, and VP QA EMEAA at Sterigenics, a Sotera company.