New RNA Centre of Excellence and Training Academy to become beacon for RNA R&D

31 Aug 2021

  • RNA Centre of Excellence to boost development, scale-up and manufacture of novel RNA therapies and vaccines 
  • National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture launched by CPI and the National Horizon Centre to drive industry skills 

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CPI, a deep-tech innovation centre, has launched an RNA Centre of Excellence and training academy to support the development, scale-up and manufacture of new and novel RNA therapies and vaccines. 

The use of RNA in oncology, and as a potential vaccine platform, has shown promise for many years, both via short chain oligonucleotides and longer chain mRNA and self-amplifying RNA. Thanks to the funding, development, clinical trials, and approval of highly effective mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic, RNA has been demonstrated as a viable therapeutic platform and has quickly advanced our knowledge of the technology and its manufacture. 

To prepare for global demand for this exciting emerging technology, CPI is expanding capacity at its site in Darlington to include GMP facilities for the clinical manufacture of RNA, and is collaborating with the National Horizons Centre, part of Teesside University, to form a new National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture. 

CPI has extensive experience in lipid nanoparticle technology and state-of-the-art equipment to synthesise, purify, manufacture, and encapsulate mRNA and saRNA using lipid nanoparticle technology. Using biologics and formulation capabilities, CPI has developed steps to enable scale-up to 4L synthesis of a saRNA and lipid nanoparticle encapsulation process – achieving the largest scale RNA vaccine manufacture in the UK

CPI is currently the only company based in the UK capable of developing, manufacturing and encapsulating RNA vaccines ready for use in clinical trials in one location. This end-to-end capability on one site in the UK will help to drive the productivity and efficiency of RNA manufacturing. 


CPI scientist in biologics lab

Built by North East based offsite construction specialist, Merit, the new GMP ready facility is expected to be ready in November. The modular nature of the building enables the facility to be quickly increased in size to cope with emerging pandemics or infectious disease threats if required. The extra facilities will support government programmes, industry R&D, and the development of RNA manufacturing technologies and processes.

Apprentices, technicians, scientists, and executives will be able to access a series of courses on the development and manufacture of RNA, RNA encapsulation, and final formulation at the National Training Academy for RNA from January 2022.

Dr Lucy Foley, Director of Biologics at CPI, said: 

The agility of RNA technology makes it a real game changer for therapeutics. Having established itself as a breakthrough technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be prepared with the skills and facilities to support this emerging RNA industry.

Both the RNA Centre of Excellence and Training Academy will support the development of new licensed RNA products for the treatment of many different diseases. This is fantastic news for the biopharmaceutical industry, and for human health.”

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Director at the National Horizons Centre, said:

With research, partnerships, and training at our core, the NHC brings together industry, academia, talent and world-class facilities to create real-world impact. The global pandemic has shown the vital role that our sector plays, and it is important that we remain agile and responsive to ensure the UK remains a global life sciences leader.

We are delighted to partner on this world leading collaboration, deepening our strategic partnership with CPI, to ensure the UK bioindustry has the future skilled workforce it needs.”

Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said:

This is another excellent example of the UK leading the way to harness some of the best scientific and medical minds in the world to develop life-saving treatments and vaccines.

Alongside our fantastic COVID-19 vaccination programme — which has prevented more than 105,000 deaths and 24 million infections — medicines such as therapeutics are playing a fundamental role in helping return life to normal and keeping people safe.”

Tony Wells, CEO, Merit, said:

We are very pleased to be working collaboratively with CPI to deliver this much needed Centre of Excellence, which will help to scale up the manufacturing of novel RNA therapies and vaccines.

The new facility will be delivered using Merit’s VacciPOD™ solution, based on our standard vaccine manufacturing building designs, which have previously been validated by the MHRA.

More than 90% of the facility will be manufactured offsite at Merit’s North East factory and delivered in half the time taken to construct using traditional methods. The region is becoming an important player in the UK life sciences arena, delivering critical advancements in medicines as well as life-changing therapies. The project will also bring vital investment and skilled jobs to our region.”