Partner Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: The Anderson Lab and Sanofi Spark the Future of mRNA Research

Published on: June 10, 2024


In this installment of our 'Partner Spotlight' series, Neha Kaushal sits down with Daniel Anderson, Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, to highlight the exciting potential of mRNA therapies and the importance of drug delivery technologies.
RNA is perhaps best known for its application in vaccines, but its promise is rapidly expanding into a wide variety of therapeutic areas. However, to develop transformative medicines based in mRNA, treatments must be effectively delivered inside the cells of patients. That’s the mission of MIT Professor Daniel Anderson and his research team at the Anderson Laboratory.

In 2023, Sanofi expanded its long-standing collaboration with the Anderson Lab, combining Sanofi's drug development capabilities and industry experience with the MIT researchers’ expertise in delivery technology for vaccines and messenger RNA therapies aimed at treating genetic diseases.

We see a future where messenger RNA can be used for vaccines, for genetic diseases and even potentially for genome editing, where you repair the DNA of a patient.
Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson

Professor of Chemical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Anderson recently joined Neha Kaushal, Principal Scientist in Drug Delivery at the Sanofi mRNA Center of Excellence, to discuss the emergence of mRNA therapies and the importance of collaboration between the pharmaceutical industry and academic researchers. 

Unlocking Powerful Technologies to Address Unmet Need

RNA-based vaccines consist of genetic material that once injected, prompt the body to produce a desired foreign protein. This protein prepares the immune system to recognize and mount a strong response in case the real, complete virus infects the patient in the future.

And beyond vaccines, messenger RNA therapies can address the underlying genetics of disease, unlike other treatments that target pathogens directly. By utilizing the body’s own cellular machinery to produce therapeutic proteins, mRNA therapies have the potential to treat a vast array of conditions, including infectious diseases, genetic disorders and potentially cancer. “For patients, mRNA therapies go beyond alleviating symptoms”, said Kaushal. “We’re going right at the root cause of disease”.

While powerful, mRNA is a tremendously fragile molecule that is susceptible to degradation when left alone in the body. For mRNA to be effective, it must be protected during its delivery into patient cells. At the Anderson Lab, Dan and his research team develop biotechnologies like lipid nanoparticles (LNPs), which function as biomolecular “carriers” that guide RNA to target cells of interest. It’s a vital area of research — as effective delivery is equally as essential as the biology of the vaccine or therapy itself.

Driving Discovery Alongside Academic Researchers

Medicines based in RNA and the delivery technologies that drive them are ripe areas of scientific research, with potentially transformative impacts for patients around the world. And while companies like Sanofi are filled with talented teams of researchers, universities and academic research centers are also hubs for scientific discovery and innovation. As Anderson explains, “We get these incredibly smart kids and we give them resources, freedom and guidance, and they're sometimes able to come up with new technologies that people had never thought of before”.

Together, Sanofi and the Anderson Lab are driving the development of innovative mRNA applications. Through this collaboration, research on new vaccines, novel treatments for genetic diseases and even gene editing is accelerating — offering exciting possibilities for patients in need.

“Now, we can take a promising technology and actually make a drug — and enough of it,” said Anderson. “That’s why I feel collaboration between academia and pharmaceutical companies really can be tremendously powerful”.


Learn More About Our Partnerships in Vaccines

Vaccines Partnerships