Sept. 17, 2021

University of California, Riverside scientists are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.


  • Messenger RNA or mRNA technology, used in Covid-19 vaccines, works by teaching our cells to recognize and protect us against infectious diseases. One of the challenges with this new technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage.

  • If this new project is successful, plant-based mRNA vaccines — which can be eaten — could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature, the University said in a press release.

  • The project, backed by a US $500,000 grant from the US National Science Foundation, has three goals:
    • showing that DNA containing the mRNA vaccines can be successfully delivered into the part of plant cells where it will replicate,

    • demonstrating the plants can produce enough mRNA to rival a traditional shot, and

    • finally, determining the right dosage.