Skip to main content

The Science of mRNA


At Moderna, we are delivering on the promise of mRNA science to create a new generation of transformative medicines for patients.¹

Scientific pipets filling clear plastic container
Close up of scientific equipment
Scientist in the lab filling containers

mRNA could revolutionise medicine

Scientists have been studying mRNA for decades. And mRNA vaccines are just the start

It's all about proteins

An mRNA can teach the body how to make a specific protein that can help your immune system prevent or treat certain diseases

You are made of proteins

Your body contains trillions of cells, the basic units of life. And every cell contains proteins.⁴'⁵'⁶

Science - Molecules - Clean

What proteins do

Proteins are the "workhorses" of your cells. And your body makes >100,000 different kinds of proteins.⁴

Science - Studying

How proteins work

For example, insulin is a protein that helps the body control sugar levels in the blood. In people with Type I diabetes, their body doesn't make enough insulin.⁵

Science Protected

Why proteins are important

When the body doesn’t make the right amount or type of protein, it can cause conditions like cancer or metabolic diseases.⁶


Why we focus on proteins

Proteins are essential for maintaining health and preventing disease

Your cells are protein factories

Proteins are made in a process called protein synthesis. And that's where mRNA comes in.

Graphical representation of mRNA

What is mRNA?

Messenger RNA–or mRNA–exists in all of the cells in your body. It is an essential component of all living organisms and has been in cells for billions of years.⁴

Graphical representation of bodies cells

What does it do?

Just like its name suggests, mRNA is a messenger. It interacts with other components in cells that help create proteins.¹'²

Graphical representation of human body

How does it help make a protein?

Each mRNA carries instructions to make a specific protein. These instructions are like a “blueprint.” mRNA delivers these instructions, and cells put the protein together.⁴

Graphical representation of mRNA breaking apart

What happens after a protein is made?

Once its job is done, an mRNA is broken down by the body. It doesn’t stick around for very long.³


mRNA teaches the body how to make its own medicine

Scientists design each mRNA to give cells directions to make a particular protein.¹

Science - mRNA

1. Making an mRNA medicine

To protect the mRNA and help deliver it into cells, the mRNA is wrapped with lipids, or fats.¹

Healthcare Vaccine

2. Deliver mRNA into the body

mRNA vaccines are given as an injection. Future mRNA treatments might be delivered by an infusion.¹

Science mRNA

3. Creating the right protein

Once the vaccine is delivered, the body takes over and makes the protein according to the mRNA’s instructions.⁴

Humanity  Personal Chart

4. Breaking it down

mRNA doesn’t stay in the body very long once its job is done. And it does not cause permanent changes or alter DNA.³

¹Moderna - The Science of mRNA. Available at: Moderna's mRNA Platform - Moderna Last accessed July 2022.

²Pardi N, Hogan MJ, Porter FW et al. mRNA vaccines — a new era in vaccinology. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 2018. 17; 261–279. Available at: Last accessed June 2022.

³Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines. CDC Jan 2022. Available at: Last accessed July 2022.

⁴Riggs P. What is mRNA? The messenger molecule that’s been in every living cell for billions of years is the key ingredient in some COVID-19 vaccines. The Conversation. 2021. Available at: Last accessed June 2022.

⁵Hua Q. Insulin: a small protein with a long journey. Protein Cell 2010, 1(6): 537–551

⁶Zhou et al. Proteomic signatures of 16 major types of human cancer reveal universal and cancer-type-specific proteins for the identification of potential therapeutic targets. J Hematol Oncol 2020. 13:170. Available at: Last accessed June 2022.

UK-MRNA-2200009 July 2022 | © 2022 Moderna, Inc.