‘Remarkable’ AI Tool Designs mRNA Vaccines that are More Potent and Stable

Software from Baidu Research yields jabs for COVID that have greater shelf stability and that trigger a larger antibody response in mice than conventionally designed shots. An artificial intelligence (AI) tool that optimizes the gene sequences found in mRNA vaccines could help to create jabs with greater potency and stability that could be deployed across the globe. Developed by scientists at the California division of Baidu Research, an AI company based in Beijing, the software borrows techniques from computational linguistics to design mRNA sequences with more-intricate shapes and structures than those used in current vaccines. This enables the genetic material to persist for longer than usual. The more stable the mRNA that’s delivered to a person’s cells, the more antigens are produced by the protein-making machinery in that person’s body. This, in turn, leads to a rise in protective antibodies, theoretically leaving immunized individuals better equipped to fend off infectious diseases. What’s more, the enhanced structural complexity of the mRNA offers improved protection against vaccine degradation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA-based shots against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus famously had to be transported and kept at temperatures below –15°C to maintain their stability. This limited their distribution in resource-poor regions of the world that lack access to ultracold storage facilities. A more resilient product, optimized by AI, could eliminate the need for cold-chain equipment to handle such jabs. The new methodology is “remarkable”, says Dave Mauger, a computational RNA biologist who previously worked at Moderna in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a maker of mRNA vaccines. “The computational efficiency is really impressive and more sophisticated than anything that has come before.”


Research Cited published in Nature (May 2, 2023):



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