Houston Methodist Research Institute is home to RNAcore, a RNA synthesis division led by professor and Chairman John Cooke. RNAcore generates RNA constructs including messenger RNA (mRNA), modified mRNA (mmRNA), microRNA cassettes, and noncoding RNA.
Per the licensing agreement, VGXI will use the design capabilities of the research institute to further develop RNA vaccines and therapies. A spokesperson from VGXI told us that the company has seen an increasing number of requests from clients for RNA manufacturing services, which served as a driver of the deal.
“RNA-based components are especially important for novel gene editing technologies, which are rapidly advancing toward the clinic,” the spokesperson further explained.
VGXI already has existing DNA services but the agreement will complement its current services.
“This [licensing agreement] will allow VGXI to support both DNA and RNA needs of our customers. In addition, high quality DNA is a necessary starting material for production of these kinds of RNA products, therefore the RNA services will be an ideal complement to VGXI’s existing capabilities and expertise in DNA manufacturing,” said the spokesperson.
RNA-based therapies are estimated to reach a market value of $1.2b by 2020.
The RNA production will take place at VGXI’s facility. In preparation for this agreement, VGXI has made headway on expanding its facility in Woodlands, Texas. The expansion includes purpose-built good manufacturing process (GMP) production areas for RNA synthesis.