There are fantastic global efforts to fight the spread of COVID-19 through therapies and vaccines and there is much research ongoing on optimizing the vital benefits that can be conferred by these innovative ideas. One of the most encouraging ideas from recent years involves the use of mRNA (messenger RNA). Some COVID-19 vaccines are based on mRNA (which code for structures that are in, or look similar to the viral proteins and thus can be more readily and safety identified by the defence mechanisms of the cell).
However, these often require complex formulations for delivery and maximum stability. This is because mRNA by itself is relatively fragile and needs protecting from being broken down once in the body. Lipids are chemicals which have a number ofchemical properties and functions in biological systems, which makes their contribution very relevant to the overall challenge. When combined with mRNA (and then subjected to even more complex processing operations), in the correct proportions, and of the correct types - LNPs (lipid nanoparticles) can be formed. LNPs are in essence, miniature shuttles which help get genetic / vaccine information, more successfully into a biological cell where it can have an effect.
So, it stands that the production of quality lipids is therefore vital in this process. However, moving from a traditional lab-based synthetic reaction to larger scale more commercially orientated process with a limited timeline is often a challenge.
In 2020 Croda approached Biotage with just such a challenge relating to the growing and unprecedented humanitarian health crisis that was unfolding relating to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. At the time, large scale production of mRNA vaccines was in its infancy, and there had never been a high global demand for raw materials used for the therapeutic application or the LNPs, on this scale.
As part of a rapid response, technical teams from both companies met routinely to discuss the challenges of scale up. The use of Biotage automated laboratory scale purifications systems to develop efficient purification methods was followed by technology transfer and application to the larger Biotage® Flash 400 purification platform which resulted in significant improvements to the existing process.
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