A Nanostructured Lipid Carrier for Delivery of a Replicating Viral RNA Provides Single, Low-Dose Protection against Zika

Mol Ther. 2018 Oct 3;26(10):2507-2522. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2018.07.010. Epub 2018 Aug 2.


Since the first demonstration of in vivo gene expression from an injected RNA molecule almost two decades ago,1 the field of RNA-based therapeutics is now taking significant strides, with many cancer and infectious disease targets entering clinical trials.2 Critical to this success has been advances in the knowledge and application of delivery formulations. Currently, various lipid nanoparticle (LNP) platforms are at the forefront,3 but the encapsulation approach underpinning LNP formulations offsets the synthetic and rapid-response nature of RNA vaccines.4 Second, limited stability of LNP formulated RNA precludes stockpiling for pandemic readiness.5 Here, we show the development of a two-vialed approach wherein the delivery formulation, a highly stable nanostructured lipid carrier (NLC), can be manufactured and stockpiled separate from the target RNA, which is admixed prior to administration. Furthermore, specific physicochemical modifications to the NLC modulate immune responses, either enhancing or diminishing neutralizing antibody responses. We have combined this approach with a replicating viral RNA (rvRNA) encoding Zika virus (ZIKV) antigens and demonstrated a single dose as low as 10 ng can completely protect mice against a lethal ZIKV challenge, representing what might be the most potent approach to date of any Zika vaccine.

Keywords: RNA delivery; RNA vaccines; Zika virus; alphavirus; emulsion; flavivirus; nanostructured lipid carrier; non-viral delivery; replicon.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Viral / administration & dosage*
  • Antigens, Viral / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Humans
  • Lipids / administration & dosage*
  • Lipids / chemistry
  • Mice
  • Nanoparticles / administration & dosage*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / immunology
  • Virus Replication / drug effects
  • Zika Virus / genetics
  • Zika Virus / pathogenicity
  • Zika Virus Infection / genetics
  • Zika Virus Infection / therapy*
  • Zika Virus Infection / virology


  • Antigens, Viral
  • Lipids
  • RNA, Viral