Published 13 May 2021 by Anna Blakney

Young Scientists at #LINO70: Anna Blakney – Next Generation of RNA Vaccines

Anna focusses on the next generation of mRNA vaccines. Photo/Credit: CROCOTHERY/iStockphoto

Anna Blakney is working in a field that has become very important in the fight against the pandemic: RNA vaccines. Her focus is self-amplifying RNA, the next step of RNA vaccines. She is Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia in the Michael Smith Laboratories and School of Biomedical Engineering.

It’s a really exciting time to be in the field of RNA vaccines, given the recent approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19. There is so much interest in the field, which is great, but these are by no means the optimal vaccines and there is still a lot to learn.

Right Time and Right Place

Anna is Assistant Professor in Vancouver. Photo/Credit: Courtesy of Anna Blakney

I think self-amplifying RNA is the next generation of RNA vaccines and I’m looking forward to contributing to progress in the field. In January 2020, even few scientists knew of RNA vaccines and now millions of people have gotten them, which is mind-blowing. I’m also passionate about public engagement and started a TikTok account as part of Team Halo to improve vaccine literacy. This has been a cool way to communicate and will hopefully have a positive impact on vaccine uptake. I recently set up my own laboratory as an Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia in the Michael Smith Laboratories and School of Biomedical Engineering. It’s an awesome place for me to land, given the academic and industrial biotech scene in Vancouver, and a really exciting opportunity to be able to pursue my own ideas.

Hooked by Experiments

My interest in biomedical research started in school. I was always interested in math and science when I was in school, and I had the opportunity to go to an engineering summer camp when I was in high school. This is what made me realize for the first time that engineering was actually really fun and interesting, and not just equations.

It was also the first time I was really exposed to biomedical research and I was hooked ­– I thought it was so fascinating that you could do experiments to come up with new medicines and treatments. I was privileged to have exposure to this early on and try to pay it forward by participating as tutor in summer camps and outreach events for young people.

Presentation About Self-amplifying RNA

You can learn more about my research by watching my presentation during the Lindau Online Science Days 2020 as part of the Next Gen Science Sessions. And I am really eager to be part of all the exciting talks with the other participants this summer and hear the stories and insights from the Nobel Laureates that attend.

About This Series

Within the next months you will find more young scientists who are selected for #LINO70 on the blog to learn more about their career, their research and their plans for the future.

Further articles in this series:

Lučka Bibič about Science communication by gamification

Jayeeta Saha about a green pathway to generate hydrogen

Robert Mayer about the prediction of chemical reactions

Daniel Reiche about the work of a theoretical physicist

Lindau Scientists and the Pandemic

How other scientists in the Lindau community are dealing with the coronavirus:

Shift in research focus during the first year of the pandemic

Science from home

Anna Blakney

Anna Blakney works as Assistant Professor in the Michael Smith Laboratories and School of Biomedical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. She completed her PhD in Bioengineering at the University of Washington and spend a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College London on the development of molecular and biomaterial engineering strategies for delivery of self-amplifying RNA.