enetics Unzipped is back for 2021 with a new series of stories from the world of genes, genomes and DNA, from the history of genetics to the latest cutting-edge research. In the first episode geneticist Dr Kat Arney takes a look at the discovery of messenger RNA (mRNA) and finds out how mRNA has been pressed into service as a COVID-19 vaccine at breakneck speed.
There were some big names involved in the discovery of mRNA in the 1960s – Francis Crick, Sydney Brenner, Francois Jacob and more – but who actually discovered this vital molecular messenger? And why did nobody win a Nobel Prize for it?
As scientist and author Matthew Cobb explains: “Who discovered mRNA? It is complicated. No wonder the Nobel Prize committee did not try and reward the discovery. Naming just three (or even six) people would be invidious — mRNA was the product of years of work by a community of researchers, gathering different kinds of evidence to solve a problem that now looks obvious, but at the time was extremely difficult.”
From the 1960s we come right up to the present day to look at mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, which have been developed at breakneck speed to tackle the pandemic. We explore the key breakthroughs that turned the languishing field of mRNA therapeutics into a game-changing medical technology, take a closer look at how mRNA vaccines work and why they were developed so fast for COVID-19, and explore how this new technology might change the face of immunization and public health in the future.
Full show notes, transcript, music credits and references online at GeneticsUnzipped.com.
Genetics Unzipped is the podcast from the UK Genetics Society, presented by award-winning science communicator and biologist Kat Arney and produced by First Create the Media. Follow Kat on Twitter @Kat_Arney. Follow Genetics Unzipped on Twitter @geneticsunzip, and the Genetics Society at @GenSocUK