Blog 09 Aug 2022 

The UK’s hub for robust, rapid development of RNA vaccines and therapies

Our RNA Centre of Excellence will soon open its doors to those involved in the development, scale-up and manufacture of novel RNA therapies and vaccines. 

Julie Anderson

Julie Anderson

Head of RNA Centre of Excellence

COVID-19 vaccination has seen a niche technology go global, but CPI has been innovating with RNA and encapsulation technologies since 2015.

We’re excited to share our wealth of expertise at our expanded facilities in Darlington. As the only UK company capable of developing, manufacturing, and encapsulating RNA therapies and vaccines ready for clinical trials in one location, there couldn’t be a better time for us to launch this cutting-edge Centre. It gives the UK the ability to capitalise on its astounding success to date in the dynamic RNA industry, and places CPI at the heart of that activity.

Together with the associated National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture, the Centre’s important legacy will be to retain RNA innovation, knowledge and clinical manufacturing in the UK and further accelerate this rapidly evolving technology. 

Contributing to the Vaccine Taskforce and building a cutting-edge manufacturing platform

Soon after the appearance of the new coronavirus in Spring 2020, the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce enlisted us to help support a fledgling vaccine under development by Imperial College London. Their approach was to develop a highly cost-effective self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) as the basis for a vaccine. 

Before we stepped in, the Imperial team had to manufacture their clinical material overseas. But, in using our biologics and formulation capabilities, we developed steps to enable scale-up to 4L synthesis of a saRNA and lipid nanoparticle (LNP) encapsulation process, which can equate to 100,000 – 500,000 doses per batch. In doing so, we achieved the largest scale saRNA vaccine manufacture in the UK

While that particular vaccine didn’t progress to roll out, we’re still working closely with the Vaccine Taskforce, who are supporting us with the operational costs of setting up the RNA Centre of Excellence. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things can change rapidly and that we need safety nets in place to protect us from future potential pandemics. The Imperial vaccine may still have its time to shine, and meanwhile, we have developed a world-leading manufacturing platform. 

We currently have many RNA and LNP projects underway with a variety of clients. Many more are in the pipeline as we run up to the opening of the new Centre, some of which involve developing alternative delivery formulations beyond LNPs. 

Robust GMP manufacturing facilities for RNA vaccines and RNA therapies

The Centre of Excellence will expand our end-to-end capabilities for the clinical manufacture of RNA, featuring state-of-the-art equipment to synthesise, purify, manufacture, and encapsulate mRNA and saRNA using LNP technology. 

RNA technologies are still new, and everything was put together so quickly for the vaccines needed in the pandemic, that nobody looked at the robustness of the manufacturing process. Although it’s incredible that the mRNA-based Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were conceived, manufactured and tested within a matter of months, the Centre of Excellence creates a solid foundation for advancing the field here in the UK and ensuring its long-term future. 

A key part of achieving that aim is that every product people bring to us will go through the same RNA platform process we’ve developed, rather than having a series of different manufacturing processes. 

Knowledge sharing thanks to the National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture

We’ve already delivered bespoke training to commercial clients and I’m especially excited that we’ll be giving more scientists across the globe the skills and the capabilities to work with RNA. Launching in September 2022, the training academy will help drive industry skills in RNA manufacture, encapsulation and final formulation. 

We’re offering a range of virtual courses, from a high-level introduction to RNA right through to upstream purification and the range of techniques involved. An RNA for leaders’ course will help company executives who want to get into the RNA space understand what’s required across the supply chain. 

What’s great is that our scientists who have hands-on experience and cutting-edge knowledge will be running the courses. Our staff have also undergone a facilitation training programme, fully preparing them to deliver these brand-new courses.

Here’s to open-minded innovation!

RNA technologies remain highly developmental, and, like all therapies, clinical outcomes are fundamental for success. The RNA Centre of Excellence’s unique mix of development and manufacturing expertise and capabilities will maximise our clients’ chance of success through achieving both preclinical and clinical timelines. 

We need to be better prepared than we were before the COVID-19 pandemic began, with a portfolio of technologies and potential vaccines to meet the unpredictable demands of future health crises. I believe that by spearheading that bold approach, the RNA Centre of Excellence will encapsulate the true spirit of innovation and represent the North East as a true beacon for biomanufacturing in the UK

Let’s innovate together

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Asif Tulah

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