Amplifying RNA Vaccine Development

New England Journal of Medicine
June 18, 2020 Vol. 382 No. 25


Clinical Implications of Basic Research
Amplifying RNA Vaccine Development
Deborah H. Fuller, Ph.D., and Peter Berglund, Ph.D.
… With the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, an mRNA vaccine was the first to enter clinical trials, with the first volunteers receiving the vaccine within 10 weeks after the genetic sequence of SARS-CoV-2 was released ( opens in new tab). Nucleic acid vaccines are now a major hope for solving this pandemic crisis. This comes as no surprise. From their earliest conception, nucleic acid vaccines were recognized as a possible solution for a rapid pandemic response. The need for only the sequence of a pathogen in order to generate the vaccine and its simplicity in manufacture have long been recognized as superpowers in nucleic acid vaccines with regard to the delivery of a rapid response to an emerging epidemic. The ability of self-amplifying RNA vaccines, and now trans-amplifying RNA vaccines, to provide amplified and durable production of antigen in vivo, coupled with potent inherent innate immune-stimulating properties, adds to these powers and may provide the dose-sparing (i.e., getting the same immune responses with smaller doses of vaccine) that will probably be needed to meet global demands. We can only hope that their deployment will render the Covid-19 pandemic crisis into a more manageable challenge, saving lives and decreasing morbidity.