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Joined: 14 Sep 2011
Age: 51
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Location: Vancouver Canada

26 May 2021, 7:17 pm

Seems tied into PCR :mrgreen:

How mRNA went from a scientific backwater to a pandemic crusher

For decades, Katalin Karikó's work into mRNA therapeutics was overlooked by her colleagues. Now it's at the heart of the two leading coronavirus vaccines

By the mid 1990s, Karikó’s bosses at UPenn had run out of patience. Frustrated with the lack of funding she was generating for her research, they offered the scientist a bleak choice: leave or be demoted. It was a demeaning prospect for someone who had once been on the path to a full professorship. For Karikó’s dreams of using mRNA to create new vaccines and drugs for many chronic illnesses, it seemed to be the end of the road.

Thirty four years earlier, the discovery of mRNA had been announced amidst a clamour of scientific excitement in the summer of 1961. For more than a decade, researchers in the US and Europe had been attempting to unravel exactly how DNA is involved in the creation of proteins – the long strings of amino acids that are vital to the growth and functioning of all life forms.

It transpired that mRNA was the answer. These molecules act like digital tape recorders, repeatedly copying instructions from DNA in the cell nucleus, and carrying them to protein-making structures called ribosomes. Without this key role, DNA would be nothing but a useless string of chemicals, and so some have dubbed mRNA the ‘software of life.’

At the time the nine scientists credited with discovering mRNA were purely interested in solving a basic biological mystery, but by the 1970s the scientific world had begun to wonder if it could exploit this cellular messaging system to turn our bodies into medicine-making factories.


“I always thought that the majority of patients don’t actually need new genes, they need something temporary like a drug, to cure their aches and pains,” she said. “So mRNA was always more interesting to me.”

At the time, the technology required to make such grand ambitions a reality did not yet exist. While scientists knew how to isolate mRNA from cells, creating artificial forms was not possible. But in 1984, the American biochemist Kary Mullis invented polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a method of amplifying very small amounts of DNA so it can be studied in detail. By 1989, other researchers had found a way to utilise PCR to generate mRNA from scratch, by amplifying DNA strands and using an enzyme called RNA polymerase to create mRNA molecules from these strands. “For scientists working on mRNA, this was very empowering,” said Karikó. “Suddenly we felt like we could do anything.”

read more: ... r-biontech