Self-amplifying RNA vaccines for infectious diseases

Gene Ther. 2021 Apr;28(3-4):117-129. doi: 10.1038/s41434-020-00204-y. Epub 2020 Oct 22.


Vaccinology is shifting toward synthetic RNA platforms which allow for rapid, scalable, and cell-free manufacturing of prophylactic and therapeutic vaccines. The simple development pipeline is based on in vitro transcription of antigen-encoding sequences or immunotherapies as synthetic RNA transcripts, which are then formulated for delivery. This approach may enable a quicker response to emerging disease outbreaks, as is evident from the swift pursuit of RNA vaccine candidates for the global SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Both conventional and self-amplifying RNAs have shown protective immunization in preclinical studies against multiple infectious diseases including influenza, RSV, Rabies, Ebola, and HIV-1. Self-amplifying RNAs have shown enhanced antigen expression at lower doses compared to conventional mRNA, suggesting this technology may improve immunization. This review will explore how self-amplifying RNAs are emerging as important vaccine candidates for infectious diseases, the advantages of synthetic manufacturing approaches, and their potential for preventing and treating chronic infections.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / genetics
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / genetics
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / immunology*
  • RNA, Viral / therapeutic use
  • SARS-CoV-2 / genetics
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Vaccination*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • RNA, Viral