Multiple therapies are on the market today for treating multiple sclerosis (MS). But what about a vaccine for MS? There isn't one available yet. However, German biotech BioNTech (NASDAQ:BNTX) could be on a path to change that. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Jan. 13, 2021, healthcare and cannabis bureau chief Corinne Cardina and Fool.com writer Keith Speights discuss BioNTech's experimental MS vaccine and why it could be a game changer in the treatment of the neurological disorder.
Corinne Cardina: They [BioNTech] actually published results of a pre-clinical study in the Science magazine last week. This was using the mRNA tech indicated toward multiple sclerosis. This is one avenue, of course it's pre-phase 1 trials, just animal studies. But what is the current standard of care for MS? Is this a really big opportunity for BioNTech, what do you think?
Keith Speights: Well, let me just first say it is a huge opportunity and a very exciting opportunity for BioNTech. There are several existing products on the market for multiple sclerosis. Biogen (NASDAQ:BIIB) is a leader in that industry. Their top product is Tecfidera. It's one of the leading MS drugs. Roche (OTC:RHHBY) has Ocrevus, I think it's how you pronounce it. It was actually originally developed by Biogen, but Roche licensed it from them and there are several others as well, so this is a huge market.
The last I saw Corinne, was that the market for multiple sclerosis therapies was in the ballpark of $25 billion globally, but it's growing. We talked about imprecise numbers, I think that's probably an imprecise number, but in the general ballpark, so it's a big opportunity.
For those of our viewers who aren't as familiar with multiple sclerosis, it's a relatively rare disease that it's caused when the immune system attacks this sheath, this protective myelin sheath, that covers nerve cells in the brain and in the spinal cord. Of course when it attacks that sheath, then it leads to all kinds of issues for individuals and most of the drugs that treat multiple sclerosis suppress the immune system, which helps, but it also leaves the individuals susceptible to other infections and so that's the downside of them.
This experimental mRNA vaccine from BioNTech could address that issue. It could allow the immune system to be suppressed and not attack that protective sheath on the nerve cells but also is still provide protection against other infections. It's really promising. It's still early, and we don't know for sure how it's going to roll out and if it will achieve its potential, but it is a very exciting opportunity for BioNTech if everything goes well.