Invisible, Targeted mRNA Vaccines
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.