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GENEtic VAccine technology and the coronavirus CRISIS: exploring socio-technical change and responsible innovation (GENEVACRISIS)


The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our ways of living across the globe. This research project will use social science and humanities approaches to analyse the enabling role of the coronavirus crisis in the development and (potential) deployment of emerging genetic vaccine technology, and associated transformations in social values and scientific research practices. Although traditional routes are being utilised to develop vaccine candidates, the pandemic has thrown open doors for the introduction of the state of the art genetic vaccines as an emergency response, e.g. Moderna Inc.’s vaccine candidate ‘mRNA-1273’. The underlying mRNA technology presents a completely new yet unproven therapeutic modality, which scientists believe has the potential to disrupt the drug development domain. In practice, only a few gene therapy approaches have received drug approval, and these are mainly aimed at treating rare hereditary conditions. In contrast, genetic vaccines would potentially be administered to the general population, both healthy and affected. They would hence normalise the mRNA medicine platforms. However, the state of the art mRNA therapeutics in general and genetic vaccine technology in particular is yet to undergo serious scrutiny and analysis from a social science perspective, a gap and original research problem that this project aims to address. The project will examine narratives around the Covid-19 pandemic, and through interviews and focus group discussions with scientists, policymakers, and science communicators will explore its enabling role in the introduction of genetic vaccine technology. Furthermore, it will analyse the ways in which these developments might shift social values and research practices. The research outcomes will provide key insights to policymakers for the governance of DNA and mRNA therapeutics platforms, and enhance social science understanding of how narratives of crisis co-shape our response to emerging science and technology.

Call for proposal

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Old College, South Bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 224 933,76