Continuous freeze-drying of messenger RNA lipid nanoparticles enables storage at higher temperatures

J Control Release. 2023 May;357:149-160. doi: 10.1016/j.jconrel.2023.03.039. Epub 2023 Mar 30.


Messenger RNA (mRNA) lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) have emerged at the forefront during the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Despite their tremendous success, mRNA vaccines currently require storage at deep freeze temperatures which complicates their storage and distribution, and ultimately leads to lower accessibility to low- and middle-income countries. To elaborate on this challenge, we investigated freeze-drying as a method to enable storage of mRNA LNPs at room- and even higher temperatures. More specifically, we explored a novel continuous freeze-drying technique based on spin-freezing, which has several advantages compared to classical batch freeze-drying including a much shorter drying time and improved process and product quality controlling. Here, we give insight into the variables that play a role during freeze-drying by evaluating the impact of the buffer and mRNA LNP formulation (ionizable lipid to mRNA weight ratio) on properties such as size, morphology and mRNA encapsulation. We found that a sufficiently high ionizable lipid to mRNA weight ratio was necessary to prevent leakage of mRNA during freeze-drying and that phosphate and Tris, but not PBS, were appropriate buffers for lyophilization of mRNA LNPs. We also studied the stability of optimally lyophilized mRNA LNPs at 4 °C, 22 °C, and 37 °C and found that transfection properties of lyophilized mRNA LNPs were maintained during at least 12 weeks. To our knowledge, this is the first study that demonstrates that optimally lyophilized mRNA LNPs can be safely stored at higher temperatures for months without losing their transfection properties.

Keywords: Continuous freeze-drying; Cryo-EM; Lyophilization; Stability; Vaccine; mRNA lipid nanoparticle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Freeze Drying / methods
  • Humans
  • Lipids
  • Nanoparticles*
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Temperature


  • Lipid Nanoparticles
  • RNA, Messenger
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Lipids