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Lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) have recently risen to prominence as the technology platform that enables the delivery of mRNA, the key component of the Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. We estimate that by the end of 2021, more than two billion people had received a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine or booster that was facilitated by an LNP delivery system, with total sales worth more than US$50 billion. Although this is by far the most widespread application of LNP technology by the biopharmaceutical industry to date, LNPs have been investigated for decades as delivery vehicles. The first FDA approval for an LNP-based genomic medicine — the siRNA patisiran (Onpattro; Alnylam) to treat polyneuropathy caused by hereditary transthyretin-mediated amyloidosis — came in 2018.
The authors of this article are employees of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a management consultancy that works with the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies. The research for this specific article was funded by BCG's health care practice.