mRNA vaccines: a formulation scientist point of view

Jeanne Leblond Chain
Research Associate
ChemBioPharm Team – ARNA Laboratory
INSERM U1212 – University of Bordeaux CNRS UMR 5320

COVID19 pandemic has turned upside down almost all dimensions of our life, from our domestic organization of family/work balance up to global politics and economics. But, at the same time, it has also brought to light an unprecedented technology, mRNA vaccines. Two mRNA vaccines have been developed in less than 10 months, winning the vaccine race for Sars-Cov2, far ahead of traditional vaccine strategies. Many clinical trials are still ongoing for COVID19, but also viral infections, cancer, rare disease, using this technology. This breakthrough has paved the way to wider applications of mRNA therapeutics in the future.
What’s in a mRNA vaccine ? How is it produced ? What is the Lipid Nanoparticle everyone is talking about ? In this talk, I will address these points from a delivery scientist point of view, reviewing the components of the mRNA vaccines : (i) the mRNA itself : why is it possible to use mRNA as therapeutics, what are the advantages and challenges of this kind of therapeutics and (ii) the delivery system. I will focus on Lipid Nanoparticle-based mRNA vaccines (Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer), and describe their composition, the role of each lipid, their fabrication route, its characterization, advantages and challenges associate with such delivery systems. Since my lab is working on lipid nanoparticles for a decade now, I will also share with you some recent progress and my personal insight to the potential of this technology.
I will dedicate time to answer the questions that could be raised by a physicist point of view, so feel free to send me in advance the questions you might have.