Evaluating the Partnership between mRNA and LNPs

Published on: 
Pharmaceutical Technology, Innovations in mRNA, April 2024 eBook, Volume 2024 eBook, Issue 4
Pages: 4–6

The LNP success in mRNA vaccines leads to their establishment as a standard in mRNA delivery.

Much of the current development of messenger RNA (mRNA) in the biopharma industry is focused on using mRNA-based therapeutics in the targeted treatment of cancers. Obstacles still persist, however, in the delivery method of the therapeutic. One solution lies in the formulation stage, where, for instance, lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology has become a common mode of delivery, owing to its success in the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines. In an interview with Stefaan De Koker, vice-president, Technology and Innovation, etherna, Pharmaceutical Technology® explores the criteria that make mRNA a good choice as a therapeutic and looks at how LNP technology is becoming a well-established vehicle for delivering mRNA.

According to De Koker, mRNA combines three significant advantages compared to other drug modalities. First, mRNA is an extremely flexible platform. For instance, mRNA sequences can be easily modulated, and, hence, they can encode virtually any therapeutic protein, “whether it’s in the cytosol of the cell, on the membrane, or even a secreted protein,” said De Koker. The ability to easily modulate mRNA sequences was on reason why mRNA was well suited to a pandemic case, such as COVID-19. It also makes mRNA well suited for developing personalized immunity, such as, a cancer vaccine. In this instance, the vaccine can be adapted to the antigen profile of a tumor.

A second major advantage of mRNA is the ease of manufacturing, says De Koker. It can be produced quickly, which, again, was exemplified by the COVID crisis, where, within a few months, mRNA vaccines were in clinical studies, he emphasizes. “They were also clearly much faster to reach approval compared to more conventional therapeutic modalities, [such as] protein-based vaccines or viral vector-based vaccines,” De Koker adds.

The reason behind mRNA’s quick synthesis is that production can be done entirely in vitro, and thus there is no need for cells to produce it, De Koker emphasizes. mRNA manufacture is based on an in-vitro transcription reaction, which uses a viral polymerase to amplify the mRNA. Moreover, De Koker explains, mRNA contains only four building blocks, which means it has constant physical and chemical properties. “Thus, regardless of the protein [one] wants to encode, [they] would have the same physical/chemical properties. This, [therefore], allows [one] to develop generic manufacturing processes,” De Koker says.


A third beneficial aspect of mRNA is the fact that the immunogenicity of the platform can be modulated. “This means that the mRNA and the formulation can either be made less (for therapeutics) or more immunogenic (for vaccines) based on the application. It really makes the immune system believe that the viral infection is ongoing, and it needs to respond to that infection by mounting a strong immune response,” De Koker explains.

“These three things together—the flexibility, the speed of manufacturing, and ability to modulate the immunogenicity of the platform—makes mRNA a versatile platform for vaccines and other uses,” De Koker states.

Read this article in Pharmaceutical Technology’s Innovations in mRNA eBook.

Article details

Pharmaceutical Technology/Pharmaceutical Technology Europe Innovations in mRNA eBook
Issue 4
April 2024
Pages: 4–6


When referring to this article, please cite it as Mirasol, F. Evaluating the Partnership between mRNA and LNPs. Pharmaceutical Technology Innovations in mRNA eBook. April 2024.