Q: What is mRNA vaccine technology and what is the history of use in vaccines?

The body uses three major steps to make all the proteins in our bodies: (1) the body’s DNA contains the genetic code for all the proteins of the body; (2) mRNA translates the DNA genetic code for each specific protein; and (3) ribosomes stitch together the string of amino acids making up each specific protein. Therefore, mRNA is the intermediate step in making proteins for the body. The mRNA does not interfere with the body’s genes and will not cause any problems with infertility.

Using scientific technology, the earliest mRNA-based vaccines and therapies were initially tested in the early 1990s, and were directed against cancer and infectious diseases such as HIV, smallpox, influenza, and hepatitis. More recently, mRNA vaccines were being developed in an attempt to solve some of the emerging infectious diseases, such as Zika and Ebola.

Response by E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine


Wilbur H. Chen, MD, MS, FACP, FISDA, Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicinem Chief, Adult Clinical Studies section, Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health (CVD), Director, UMB Travel Medicine Practice