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The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and CureVac partner to develop a transportable mRNA vaccine manufacturing platform.
On Feb. 27, 2019, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and CureVac, a biopharmaceutical company focused on messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines, announced a partnership worth up to $34 million for the development of The RNA Printer prototype-a transportable, down-scaled, automated mRNA printing facility. This platform is expected to provide a rapid supply of lipid-nanoparticle (LNP)-formulated mRNA vaccine candidates that can target known pathogens, including lassa fever, yellow fever, and rabies, as well as prepare for rapid response to new and previously unknown pathogens referred to by World Health Organization as “Disease X,” according to CureVac.
Under the terms of the three-year partnership agreement, CureVac will use its mRNA platform to undertake preclinical development of vaccine candidates against lassa fever, rabies, and yellow fever. Following successful preclinical tests for the three named indications, two of the vaccine candidates will undergo Phase I clinical trials in humans. The project is scheduled to begin in March 2019.
“The genetic blueprint for an organism is contained within its DNA. The genetic code stored inside DNA provides specific instructions for the fabrication of proteins. A mRNA molecule transports genetic information from the DNA to the cell machinery responsible for protein production. Traditional vaccine approaches administer live or inactivated pathogens to generate an immune response,” CureVac explained in a company press release. “However, the LNP mRNA vaccine candidate delivers mRNA into a cell, instructing it to produce a specific protein or antigen-for example, a foreign substance that induces an immune response. To prevent degradation of the mRNA and improve vaccine effectiveness, the mRNA is also encapsulated in a protective shell of lipid nanoparticles.”
According toCureVac, the RNA Printer is capable of producing several grams of LNP-formulated mRNA, enough to produce more than a hundred thousand doses, within a just few weeks. The printer is suitable for hospital pharmacy settings as well as onsite delivery to outbreak regions. This platform can also produce mRNA vaccine candidates against multiple pathogens using the same technology.
“CureVac’s vaccine platform could be a game-changer, radically improving our ability to respond to the emergence of Disease X”, said Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, in the press release. “Disease X could emerge suddenly and have deadly consequences-we’ve seen this happen with Ebola, MERS coronavirus, Zika, and countless other diseases. That’s why we’re striving to develop rapid-response vaccine platforms-like CureVac’s mRNA technology-to defend against these unknown pathogens. CEPI has now established partnership agreements totaling more than $50 million in three such platforms.”
“CureVac’s mRNA technology can be designed to encode for many proteins or antigens, offering rich potential for the development of vaccines to protect against deadly pathogens,” said Daniel Menichella, CEO of CureVac, in the release. “We are excited to be working with CEPI to unlock The RNA Printer’s potential for rapid onsite delivery to outbreak regions, as well as in hospital pharmacy settings for personalized medicine production.”
The CureVac–CEPI project is also in collaboration with several organizations including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, VisMederi, Institute of Tropical Medicine/Tubingen, and an additional technology and engineering partner.