Celltrion ties up with U.S. biotech company TriLink to develop new mRNA vaccine platform

Lim Chang-won Reporter() | Posted : August 4, 2021, 10:31 | Updated : August 4, 2021, 10:31

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SEOUL -- Celltrion, a South Korean biotech company known for the world's third COVID-19 antibody treatment, has tied up with TriLink BioTechnologies, a U.S. biotech company that provides gene therapy services to researchers, to develop a next-generation messenger RNA vaccine platform that can be applied to coronavirus variants.

The San Diego-based company is a contract development & manufacturing organization (CDMO) helping life science leaders and innovators overcome challenges in the synthesis and scale-up of nucleic acids, NTPs and mRNA capping analogs with scale-up expertise and unique mRNA production capabilities,

Celltrion aims to develop a COVID-19 vaccine using various mutant virus antigens. The company would try to secure source technology through research on nucleic acid and capping improvement along with the development of vectors that can avoid patents while producing materials for large-scale clinical trials by establishing mRNA process facilities.

"Through this collaboration, we will do our best to expand a new drug portfolio by securing our own mRNA platform technology and applying it to the development of new drugs in various fields," an unnamed Celltrion official said in a statement on August 4. Celltrion would expand its technology beyond COVID-19 to other diseases such as anticancer through the development of an mRNA platform.

Celltrion's antibody treatment code-named CT-P59 (regdanvimab) has been approved in South Korea and other countries as an intravenous injection for COVID-19 patients. CT-P59's administration is limited to patients with mild or moderate symptoms in a high-risk group of people.

The novel coronavirus is studded with proteins that it uses to enter human cells. Spike proteins make a tempting target for potential vaccines and treatments. DNA vaccines transfect a specific antigen-coding DNA sequence onto the cells of an immunized species, while mRNA vaccines teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response for the production of antibodies.

DNA vaccines are safer than mRNA vaccines but there is a disadvantage that raw material inputs are higher. The advantages of RNA vaccines include production speed and lower cost, but they may elicit an unintended immune reaction, and mRNA vaccines can be easily broken by small shocks, making them difficult to transport and store.

The tie-up between Celltrion and TriLink came after South Korea launched a special government-sponsored consortium in June to develop a next-generation mRNA vaccine platform. The consortium would establish a vaccine production and export base and use its mRNA platform to develop anti-cancer vaccines and next-generation innovative drugs.
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