Ulrike Herbrand, PhD

What’s Hot in 2021: RNA vaccines

2021 might finally be the year of success for RNA vaccines. 

Researchers have been working on RNA-based vaccines to treat infectious diseases and cancer for three decades, with no releases to the market. Until now. Well almost...

Currently, several companies are working on the market release of an RNA vaccine for COVID-19, inarguably the No. 1 topic of 2020. 

RNA vaccines consist of a messenger RNA (mRNA) strand that codes for a disease-specific antigen. Once the mRNA strand in the vaccine is inside the body’s cells, the cells use the genetic information to produce the antigen. This antigen is then displayed on the cell surface, where it is recognised by the immune system.

So why are RNA vaccines so hot in COVID-19 research?

They do have some significant advantages compared to traditional vaccines. They can be developed and produced faster and less expensively than old-school vaccines. They also might be superior regarding safety since they are free of infectious material during production. Preliminary data from late-stage clinical studies of COVID show they are also highly effective.

Of course there is still a lot of work to be done to gain a better understanding of any potential side effects from RNA vaccines, and more evidence is needed about their long term efficacy. But it just might be the path we take to get back to normal. Stay tuned world.

-- Ulrike Herbrand, PhD, Biologics Testing Services,  Charles River