Two mRNA vaccines, which received emergency authorization in late 2020, have proven critical in the fight against Covid-19. These vaccines, the first of their kind, were the culmination of decades of research on RNA. Delivered as strands of mRNA that encode a viral protein, the vaccines enter cells and begin producing proteins, allowing the immune system to recognize the virus if encountered later. Following the success of Covid-19 vaccines, researchers hope that mRNA vaccines and therapies will prove useful against many other diseases.
Daniel Anderson, a professor of chemical engineering at MIT and a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, has spent many years working on ways to package and deliver mRNA. Anderson, who recently co-authored a recent Nature Biotechnology review on mRNA therapies, answered some questions from MIT News on the progress of this technology.