Reasons for success and lessons learnt from nanoscale vaccines against COVID-19

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Almost all currently used vaccines against COVID-19 consist of either non-viral or viral nanoparticles. Here we attempt to understand the reasons behind the success of such advanced nanoscale vaccine technologies compared with clinically established conventional vaccines, and the lessons to be learnt from this potentially transformative development in the adoption and acceptance of nanotechnology for medicine.

The outbreak of a novel coronavirus (CoV) causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) was initially identified in China in late 2019 and rapidly developed into a global pandemic with devastating health and economic consequences1. Driven by this, concerted effort by hundreds of laboratories across the world has led to the most rapid vaccine development in history, with clinical trials of promising candidates completed within a few months of the virus genome being reported2,3. Surprisingly, established vaccine technologies such as those based on inactivated/attenuated virions (entire virus particles) or on viral protein fragments, which have traditionally led the way in terms of clinical presence, market share and regulatory approval, have been clearly outplayed in both speed and immunoprotective efficacy by highly innovative technologies with no prior approved clinical use4. Even more remarkable is that most of these vaccine candidates rely on either synthetic or naturally occurring nanoscale vector systems (Table 1), with almost all of the candidates falling within the nanoscale size range (Fig. 1).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-850
Number of pages8
JournalNature Nanotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2021


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