PhD Defense by Kristin Loomis

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  • Date/Time:
    • Friday January 29, 2016 - Saturday January 30, 2016
      12:00 pm - 1:59 pm
  • Location: Marcus Nano Building, Room 1117-1118
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Summary Sentence: Strategies for controlling the innate immune responses to in vitro transcribed mRNAs

Full Summary: No summary paragraph submitted.

Kristin Loomis

PhD Defense Presentation

Date: January 29, 2016

Time: 1:00 PM

Location: Marcus Nano Building, Room 1117-1118

Thesis Committee Members:
Ravi Bellamkonda, PhD (Advisor)
Philip Santangelo, PhD
Susan Thomas, PhD
Julia Babensee, PhD
Krishnendu Roy, PhD

Title: "Strategies for controlling the innate immune responses to in vitro transcribed mRNAs"



Synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) produced via in vitro transcription (IVT mRNA) has emerged as an appealing tool for the transient introduction of genes, particularly for vaccination applications. The interaction that IVT mRNA has with the innate immune system is centrally important to its performance as a vaccine.  These innate immune responses can both interfere with the expression of the encoded antigenic protein and direct development of adaptive immunity.  The objective of this thesis is to investigate the innate immune responses to IVT mRNA and to identify strategies to modulate these immune responses. 

We first demonstrated that substitution of the modified bases 5-methylcytosine and pseudouridine in IVT mRNA consistently reduces antiviral cytokine responses but affects transgene expression in a gene-specific manner. To assess the pathogen recognition receptors involved in detection of IVT mRNA, we developed proximity ligation assays, which allowed histological identification of PRR signaling complexes.  We used these assays to identify that nanoparticle-mediated delivery modified PRR-activation following intramuscular delivery compared to delivery of the naked IVT mRNA molecule. Lastly, we developed a strategy to program the immunostimulatory properties of IVT mRNA by tethering adjuvants directly to the molecule.  We show that upon intramuscular injection, the combination delivery of a TLR7 adjuvant and IVT mRNA lead to heightened local antiviral responses when delivered tethered, rather than as a cocktail.  This work provides a foundation for the modulation and systematic study of IVT mRNA’s interaction with the innate immune system.  Insights gained from this work may help direct and advance the design of IVT mRNA sequences for vaccination applications.

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In Campus Calendar

Graduate Studies

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Phd Defense
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  • Created On: Jan 20, 2016 - 9:48am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 10:15pm