DNA and mRNA Vaccines: A Basic Comparison

DNA and mRNA Vaccines

mRNA and DNA vaccines are a relatively new development in the field of epidemiology. But what are they exactly? And how do they work? Are they better than traditional vaccines? Now that you have all the exciting life-saving opportunities these latest technologies offered. [1]

Let’s take a closer look. We cannot deny the fact that COVID19 may have changed our lives forever. But if anything good has happened from this world-changing event, it is the record-speed development of medical advancements such as mRNA and DNA vaccines.

A Comparison Between DNA and mRNA Vaccines

Unlike traditional vaccines that stimulate the immune system with weakened, damaged, or inactivated versions of pathogens (viruses or bacteria), Vaccines of the genetic pathogen pathogens are required to elicit an immune response. To be more specific, DNA vaccines use small molecules of DNA called plasmids, whereas mRNA vaccines use the pathogen messenger RNA (mRNA) to be effective.

Despite the similarities, there are some notable differences between DNA and mRNA vaccines. In addition to the genetic material used in the actual production of vaccines, they also differ in the mode of action and administration and storage and transport requirements.


DNA vaccines use plasmids that carry the gene encoding for SARSCoV2 spike protein. Once in human cells, the plasmids penetrate the cytoplasm and nuclear envelope well before entering the nucleus. Upon entering the nucleus, the genetic material of the plasmid is converted to messenger RNA (mRNA) and then back into the cytoplasm for viral or bacterial proteins.

Because the immune system does not recognize this particular protein, it emits a warning signal to stimulate the production of antibodies that are supposed to fight foreign substances.

Vaccination stimulates the production of memory immune cells (also known as B Lymphocytes), so if a vaccinated person is exposed to these viruses and bacteria, the immune system can respond accordingly and provide the necessary protection. The DNA vaccine needs to penetrate the nucleus and return to the cytoplasm to synthesize the required viral or bacterial protein, while the mRNA vaccine requires a shorter pathway. Basically, they need to reach the part of the cell that contains the enzymes needed for the synthesis of cytoplasm, bacteria, or viral proteins.

As a result, the mRNA vaccine produces a stronger immune response. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up for debate. On one hand, it can provide stronger protection against infection, but the resulting side effects can also limit its use.


The DNA vaccine delivers the genetic code of the pathogen to cells by a small electric pulse equipped with a special device, while the mRNA vaccine is administered by injection.

Storage and Transport Requirements

Compared to mRNA vaccines, DNA vaccines are significantly more heat resistant. PlasmaDNA vaccines are more stable and easier to store and transport between the two. In contrast, mRNA vaccines have strict storage and transport requirements, making distributing to poorer countries much more difficult.

Advantages and Disadvantages

DNA and mRNA vaccines have many advantages over traditional vaccines.

They ensure a stronger immune response. Traditional vaccines use attenuated or inactivated bacteria or viruses to stimulate the immune response, weakening the response and requiring several additional vaccinations to maintain the level of defense provided. On the contrary, DNA and mRNA vaccines produce a stronger immune response by activating all components of the immune system.

They are more economical to manufacture. Compared to traditional vaccines, the manufacturing process is simpler, faster, and easier. Instead of culturing the actual viral protein (which can take years to develop), the required DNA or RNA strands can be synthesized by a chemical process, making it easier to adapt as needed (eg, emerging diseases or pandemics).

In addition, the manufacturing process is significantly cheaper than traditional recombinant subunit vaccines.  While these vaccines have great potential for the treatment of cancer and other infectious diseases such as SARSCoV2, HIV, dengue, and malaria, they have inherently more risk to them. Although the research has been more than promising,  new technological advancements still leave much unknown about the long-term safety and efficacy of these vaccines.


The development of DNA and mRNA vaccines could be a game-changer. But will it be? That remains to be seen. This blog was brought to you by MBP Inc. We are a company that produces equipment to be used in labs. Some of our products include centrifuges, 96 well-skirted plates, flasks, filter tips, and much more.



[1] E. Daugherty, “DNA and mRNA Vaccines: A Side-by-Side Comparison,” 2 November 2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 4 January 2022].




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