HomeAbout UsStoriesThe Science Behind mRNA and Delivery ShuttlesEleni Samaridou: The People Behind mRNA and Delivery Shuttles

Eleni Samaridou: The People Behind mRNA and Delivery Shuttles

Designing and building the right spaceship (lipid nanoparticle) for the astronaut (mRNA) takes teamwork and some failed attempts.

Eleni Samaridou stands in the lab wearing a lab coat, gloves and glasses.

September 22, 2023 | 2 min

Eleni Samaridou first learned about nanodelivery vehicles — the broader category that LNPs fit under — as a first-year graduate student. Their versatility and customizability mesmerized her. She could tailor lipid nanoparticles for specific molecules, routes and tissues (to name just a few). 

“I fell in love with nanodelivery vehicles,” she says. From that point on, her job descriptions included nanodelivery vehicles — put simply: very small shuttles that deliver therapeutics. 

Customers come to Samaridou and the Early Formulation Screening Service team with a highly specified mRNA sequence and ask for help figuring out how to get it to its destination intact. The team, led by Dr. Moritz Beck-Broichsitter, designs and optimizes LNPs based on a customer’s specific needs and goals.

Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge in LNP development is finding and fine-tuning the recipe for the composition of the final LNP. This includes identifying custom lipids, which the team sources from Schaffhausen, Switzerland. These custom lipids — alongside other components — help Samaridou’s team build, characterize and screen LNPs, ultimately identifying the best fatty bubbles for the task.

Once Samaridou’s team is satisfied with the formulation, they’ll connect with the customer and plan additional testing and validation. If preclinical trials and tests go well, the next big step is to work on scaling up the process, which is where the site in Indianapolis, in the US, comes in. Here, Merck scientists guide customers through the journey from preclinical to clinical development and then the market, as easily as possible.

Sometimes, the daily grind makes the goal — designing therapeutics to help patients —seem far off. For Samaridou, she finds herself thinking about that goal more often now. Earlier this year, she went to visit a customer who is focused on finding a treatment for a rare genetic disease. And their mission is personal — the founders’ children both have the disease.

“To meet the patients that I will design a therapeutic approach for, which might change the course of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, was really memorable,” she says.

More people behind mRNA and delivery shuttles

Haag Lab
Meet Tobias Haag

Before there are LNPs, there are individual lipids.

Aditi wears PPE and uses a pipette to extract a solution in the lab.
Meet Aditi Mehta

Before a process is optimized, there are many, many, tweaks.

Meet Mahesh Karwa

Before there are large quantities of mRNA vaccines or therapeutics, there are very small quantities.

Lang looks at camera while working in the lab.
Meet Kahina Lang

Before the time from idea to final RNA therapeutic or vaccine can shrink, scientists need to formulate viable LNPs.

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