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mRNA may not be a train we necessarily all need to get onboard immediately, but we should know where the central train station is located, and what it connects us to.
The combined market capitalization of the five companies focusing on messenger RNA (mRNA) platform development was approximately US$15 billion at the end of 2019 and more than US$300 billion as of August 2021, according to Xie et al. (1). While that’s staggering, in many ways its entirely understandable. In October 2022, I helped organize and run a high caliber event in San Diego, CA for “mRNA day” with TriLink BioTechnologies, to discuss common manufacturing, supply, and regulatory challenges relating to mRNA as a platform. Interspersed between the high cost of required enzymes, the need to be serious about how to manage DNA as a starting medium, and cut off points for potency assays, we devoted significant time and energy to discussing what benefits might accrue from establishing a supplier-developer consortium.
Standards and regulatory streamlining came quickly. But during a hour-and-a-half panel, we added the idea of a central railway station system for supply shortage oversight, easy access to best new publications, and centralized advocacy for staff recruitment though university and technical college classes, alongside staff training best practices generally. Because of the tricky intellectual property landscape and competitive commercial aspects involved, we all thought “consortia” might have unhelpful exclusionary connotations. “Alliance” or “organization” was accepted as reducing hesitancy instead. It was a genuine pleasure and delight to be part of this wonderful event. We said heartfelt goodbyes, I took a deep breath, then headed off to the high-octane capaciousness of CPHI Frankfurt, and thence a deserved week’s holiday in Germany.
Tuning out work for a week was delightful, refreshing, and against expectation. Arriving at each new city, getting our bearings required tuning into WiFi at the train station (Hauptbanhof). Each and every time, a new message also turned up from one of the San Diego attendees. They had “been thinking” and wanted to share a “new suggestion” for a secondary role the mRNA alliance might play. When an idea follows you around the globe, when you feel tracked down at a train station, you know something special is happening. This feels like the field of proteomics 20 years ago. There is a real need for both consolidation and standardization of resources. It’s not a train we necessarily all need to get onboard immediately, but we should know where the central train station is located, and what it connects us to.
1. W. Xie, B. Chen, and J. Wong, “Evolution of the Market for mRNA Technology,” Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, Nature.com, Sept. 2, 2021.
Chris Spivey is the editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.
Volume 46, Volume 12
When referring to this article, please cite it as C. Spivey, "mRNA Hauptbahnhof," Pharmaceutical Technology 46 (10) (2022).