How the next generation of mRNA vaccines could help tackle cancer

Exciting developments in mRNA vaccines, treatments for long covid the safe use of artificial intelligence are just some of the topics you can learn about at New Scientist’s one-day event exploring the future of healthcare.


14 June 2021

At the start of last year, few people had heard of messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines. Now, Pfizer is on track to produce 3 billion doses of its mRNA covid-19 vaccine in 2021, plans to make enough to treat the world’s entire 7.7 billion population by the end of 2022. Scientists are already working on the next generation of vaccines which take advantage of this new technology. At New Scientist’s Future of Healthcare online event on Saturday 26 June, immunologist Anna Blakney will reveal how self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccines will attack the new variants slash the cost per dose, how influenza yellow fever vaccines will get the mRNA makeover, how promising RNA-personalised cancer vaccines could train your immune system to attack cancerous cells. 

To explore the Future of Healthcare programme in more detail secure your ticket, visit the New Scientist Future of Healthcare event page 

Blakney’s talk is just one of 15 fascinating talks at the Future of Healthcare online event. As you’d expect, covid-19 features prominently, with public health specialist Nisreen Alwan of the University of Southampton explaining how long covid is “the pandemic after the pandemic”, England’s chief scientific officer Sue Hill touching on how the UK has undertaken almost 50 per cent of the genomic sequencing of covid-19 worldwide. Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute will demonstrate what it takes to sequence tens of thousands of covid-19 samples, Tara Donnelly, chief digital officer of the technology arm of the NHS, will reveal how the NHS’s response to the pandemic has been driven by new digital tools.  

Globally the number of people living with dementia will increase from 50 million in 2018 to 152 million in 2050, according to the World Health Organization. The syndrome has a devastating impact on the economy as well as on families. Alzheimer’s Research UK says delaying the onset of dementia by five years would save £21.2 billion each year by 2050. Early diagnosis is crucial. Consultant neurologist Dennis Chan of University College will explain how existing memory pen-and-paper tests to diagnose dementia are hopelessly outdated. His research group is exploring whether virtual reality, machine learning wearable technologies can diagnose the onset of the neurological diseases causing dementia, decades before problematic symptoms appear.  

Artificial intelligence also promises to revolutionise healthcare, Sebastien Ourselin of King’s College London will address how AI is used in healthcare can improve an individual’s life for the better. He’ll also touch on some of the key challenges of deploying these tools into our healthcare systems, such as bias privacy concerns.   

Sticking with technology, University of Sussex’s Gianluca Memoli will discuss how current research in acoustics is transforming healthcare, leading to localised drug delivery, microsurgery in the brain quieter hospital wards that use the acoustic equivalent of invisibility cloaks to block noise. Christos Bergeles from King’s College London will reveal what the future of robotic surgery holds.  

Other exciting talks at the Future of Healthcare include:

  • How technology nudges helped made Parkrun a public health success
  • The anti-ageing drugs which will help us live longer
  • Treating mental health disorders with the help of psychedelics 
  • The emerging science showing links between movement your mind
  • The carbohydrate conundrum: If carbs are bad, why do plant-based diets have so much of it?

Plus: see live demos, take part in activities attend workshops on the role of 3D printing in healthcare, use origami to explore folds in the brain talk to researchers about different career paths. Researchers at the Wellcome Sanger Institute will also be showcasing their work careers, while Medical Mavericks will show how to take photos of the inside of the eye.

To explore the Future of Healthcare programme in more detail secure your ticket, visit the New Scientist Future of Healthcare event page 

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