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How different in principle is using the bodies own mRNA to create the coronavirus spike protein differ from other methods of using genes to manufacture other drugs or proteins and is there a cost benefit to it?

Take the scheme for instance that uses genetically modified genes in goats to manufacture spider silk, as shown in this link - The goats with spider genes and silk in their milk or Yeast cells genetically modified to create morphine-like pain killer

I understand that in the case of the Covid vaccines the human body's genes themselves are not modified, but it is the principle of using the body's own cells as a manufacturer of some desired protein that I'm inquiring about.

Even without any cost-cutting benefit does the way Covid mRNA vaccines work differ in principle from other gene based compound manufacture?

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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because it is not about a biological mechanism or process. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Mar 29 at 18:15
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    $\begingroup$ It is about a biological process which in this case uses the human body as the system of manufacturing. Whether a cost benefit is a secondary issue, but it clearly has to be a factor given the huge scale on which it is being applied. Is the scale the only reason why Covid has enabled mRNA vaccines managed to go mainstream or is just fortuitous timing? The scale and the economics matter. $\endgroup$
    – vfclists
    Mar 29 at 18:31
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    $\begingroup$ This site should find a way to enable discourse regarding the rapidly growing and extremely relevant field of bioengineering. Currently there is no "home" for it on Stack Exchange. $\endgroup$
    – user47696
    Mar 30 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ Bryans comment suggests he doesn't understand that the mRNA vaccine is also bulk manufactured. Bryan also says that the mRNA vaccine results in "very little protein" without citation, v questionable assertion. $\endgroup$
    – user47696
    Mar 30 at 4:47
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    $\begingroup$ (mRNA, protein) manufacture is an entire biology discipline relevant for medical and non medical industry. OPs question is a good one - is it easier to manufacture the mRNA than the protein, and is that part of why the vaccine is an mRNA vaccine. $\endgroup$
    – user47696
    Mar 30 at 4:47
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What you describe, creating the spike protein independently and delivering it, is exactly what is done by subunit vaccines, such as the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Novavax.

As already noted in @Amanda's answer, mRNA is great at amplifying a delivery, so you need a lot less to be delivered.

The manufacturing process for the vaccine itself is a lot more modular as well, since you can address a new target simply by adjusting the contents of the mRNA. It's not necessarily simpler overall, though, since there are different challenges related to nanoparticle encapsulation and delivery.

The stability is also not necessarily better than for a subunit vaccine: proteins are sensitive and unstable, but so is mRNA. The degree of sensitivity for mRNA, however, is more predictable than for protein, since the mRNA itself is a much simpler and more regularly structured molecule.

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It is quite costly and difficult to manufacture and store proteins. It's very likely more efficient to have the human cells create as much protein as they can, from a relatively small amount of mRNA. Remember than one mRNA molecule can be translated into protein many many many times, so the manufacturers need to only make one mRNA molecule to get many protein molecules, whereas it would be more expensive to manufacture many protein molecules.

It's kind of a "give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach a man to fish, he eats forever" situation. Better to give the body the instructions (mRNA) than the product, for cost effectiveness.

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