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Invisible, Targeted mRNA Vaccines

The GEMAT group at IQS is working on the zwiRNA project with the goal of designing a new state-of-the-art therapeutic vaccine for the treatment of lung cancer.

El grupo GEMAT de IQS trabaja en el proyecto zwiRNA con el objetivo de diseñar una nueva vacuna terapéutica

Under the coordination of Dr Salvador Borrós and Dr Cristina Fornaguera, researchers from the Materials Engineering Group at the IQS School of Engineering are working on the zwiRNA project, which principally aims to develop new zwitterionic biomaterials to design a new state-of-the-art, anti-tumour therapeutic vaccine for lung cancer treatments.

One of the problems that arises when using mRNA-based immunotherapy is the lack of control over the distribution of the vaccine within the body. In other words, vaccines do not accumulate in cells where they have to act, a fact that limits their efficacy. That is why it is important to be able to find a way of reaching the target cells, without premature elimination, to be able to activate the vaccination specifically and to ensure a much more efficient treatment.

Arising from the GEMAT group’s extensive experience in developing new biomaterials, researchers from this group are now working on improving the treatment’s “driving” system. Taking advantage of the properties of zwitterionic polymers, the researchers have put forward a new hypothesis that the incorporation of a zwitterionic part in biomaterials will make the vaccine invisible so that it is not prematurely eliminated by the immune system. The surface of the nanoparticles is also coated with biomolecules that will direct them specifically to the dendritic cells, where they must act to create an immunological response capable of attacking the tumour cells.

In short, as the culmination of the group’s experience in the development of biomaterials, this project aims to obtain certain suitable biopolymers to encapsulate genetic material, to improve the polymers themselves, and to use them in specific applications, such as the treatment of lung cancer, by finding non-invasive routes of administration such as by inhalation.

The zwiRNA project has received funding within the “Knowledge Creation Projects” call for grants as part of the National Framework to Promote Scientific Research and Transfer of the National Scientific, Technical, and Innovation Research Plan for 2021-2023.


Salvador Borrós Gómez, PhD

Director of IQS - Head of GEMAT Group - Professor




Grup d'Enginyeria de Materials

School of Engineering

Materials Engineering

Its activities focus on three main areas: the development of new functional materials, surface engineering and biomaterials.



School of Engineering

Chemical & Synthetic Biology for Biotherapies

This group combines chemistry and synthetic biology to develop precision bio-nano-therapeutics based on smart proteins and to generate molecular systems that enable transport of therapeutics to the brain.


ZwiRNA (Nanopartículas zwiteriónicas como vacunas de ARNm contra el cáncer pulmonar)

Desarrollo de Nanopartículas zwiteriónicas de Poli(beta-aminoester) como vacunas de mRNA para tratar el cáncer de pulmón de células no pequeñas (zwiRNA).
Funding Agency:
Research Group Link:
Materials Engineering (GEMAT)
Chemical & Synthetic Biology for Biotherapies (ChemSynBio)


Doctoral thesis

Polymers for Invisible Nanoparticles in mRNA Vaccines

Dr Coral García recently defended her doctoral thesis at IQS, in which she managed to develop a system of polymeric vaccines based on mRNA that are invisible to premature elimination by the immune system and ensure that they exclusively impact target cells.