Abstract. The SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has generated a renaissance in vaccinology, with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines delivering a “digital code” of the viral antigen with no need to purify proteins or inactivate pathogens.
Vaccines 2020: The era of the digital vaccine is here
Mariagrazia Pizza, Simone Pecetta, Rino Rappuoli
Science Translational Medicine
15 Dec 2021, Vol 13, Issue 624, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abm3249
Fig. 1. Impact of digital vaccines on vaccinology.
Analog vaccines (left) require isolation of the pathogen or the generation of a recombinant cell line to produce the protein antigen through fermentation and purification. This is a complex and long process where scale-up of new manufacturing methods can take years. In contrast, digital vaccines (right) only require genetic information encoding the antigen and not the protein antigen itself. Such genetic information can be shared via the internet and used by multiple laboratories and production facilities around the world. In the case of mRNA-encoded vaccines, the same manufacturing process and facility can be used for multiple vaccines. Digital vaccines enable much faster vaccine development (bottom). Traditional analog vaccines can take 10 to 15 years from discovery to clinical use. Parallel clinical development of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, with overlap of phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials, resulted in emergency use authorization by the FDA within 10 months, without compromising safety and efficacy.