mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology
mRNA vaccines represent a promising alternative to conventional vaccine approaches because of their high potency, capacity for rapid development and potential for low-cost manufacture and safe administration. However, their application has until recently been restricted by the instability and inefficient in vivo delivery of mRNA.
Recent technological advances have now largely overcome these issues, and multiple mRNA vaccine platforms against infectious diseases and several types of cancer have demonstrated encouraging results in both animal models and humans. This Review provides a detailed overview of mRNA vaccines and considers future directions and challenges in advancing this promising vaccine platform to widespread therapeutic use.
- Recent improvements in mRNA vaccines act to increase protein translation, modulate innate and adaptive immunogenicity and improve delivery.
- mRNA vaccines have elicited potent immunity against infectious disease targets in animal models of influenza virus, Zika virus, rabies virus and others, especially in recent years, using lipid-encapsulated or naked forms of sequence-optimized mRNA.
- Diverse approaches to mRNA cancer vaccines, including dendritic cell vaccines and various types of directly injectable mRNA, have been employed in numerous cancer clinical trials, with some promising results showing antigen-specific T cell responses and prolonged disease-free survival in some cases.
- Therapeutic considerations and challenges include scaling up good manufacturing practice (GMP) production, establishing regulations, further documenting safety and increasing efficacy.
- Important future directions of research will be to compare and elucidate the immune pathways activated by various mRNA vaccine platforms, to improve current approaches based on these mechanisms and to initiate new clinical trials against additional disease targets.
Article Information: Pardi, N., Hogan, M., Porter, F. et al. mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology. Nat Rev Drug Discov 17, 261–279 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/nrd.2017.243