Margaret A. Liu: The Mother of DNA Vaccines


Nicknamed “The Mother of DNA Vaccines”, Liu is known for her work in developing DNA injections as a vaccine to combat viruses. Using dormant viruses as vaccines runs the risk of the virus becoming active again, which makes Liu’s work in DNA vaccines a safer alternative.

Liu began working on a DNA vaccine for the Influenza virus, and was successful in creating a DNA vaccine that would be effective across many strains of the virus. Now working as the Vice-Chair of Transgene in Strasbourg, France, Liu is working on a way to combat the HIV virus by using DNA injections.

HIV mutates so quickly that it can outmaneuver traditional vaccines made from viral proteins or weakened viruses. Worse, a vaccine made from a weakened virus could prove deadly if the virus mutated and regained virulence. Liu’s work has shown that DNA may offer the hope of better, more stable vaccines that can be rapidly produced. DNA injected as a vaccine will signal the body to churn out proteins that protect against HIV by provoking an immune response to the virus. Liu’s DNA vaccines are now in clinical trials for many human diseases and are licensed for several veterinary applications.

Thanks to her valuable scientific input, Margaret  Liu was selected one of "The 50 Most Important Women Scientists" by Discover magazine in 2002. She has chaired the International Society of Vaccines from 2015 through 2017. 

**The original article is published in the SCIplanet, Spring 2016 issue.

Banner image:
David Holub/Durango Herald illustration
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald photo

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