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Joint Venture to Develop Stable RNA Covid-19 Vaccine

Shark

(baechi, Pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/shark-south-africa-africa-ocean-5024680/)

8 Nov. 2021. A developer of synthetic bio-based products from engineered yeast cells is joining with an immunotherapy drug maker to produce a stable RNA Covid-19 vaccine. Financial terms of the agreement between Amyris Inc. in Emeryville, California and ImmunityBio Inc. in San Diego were not disclosed.

Amyris and ImmunityBio aim to develop and manufacture a new type of Covid-19 vaccine using ribonucleic acids or RNA like those currently approved, but without the need to refrigerate or freeze the vaccine for shipping and storage. These supply chain requirements known as cold chain, limit the provision of Covid-19 vaccines to many parts of the world, particularly those in low-resource regions.

Amyris is a developer of drug, consumer, and industrial product ingredients from engineered yeast cells and fermented in large-scale quantities. The company says it designs synthetic biological compounds using computational techniques, including machine learning. Many Amyris products are used in consumer food and cosmetic items, but an early company product was an anti-malarial drug with a synthetic form of artemisinin, usually derived from the Artemisia annua or sweet wormwood plant with natural anti-malarial properties. Amyris developed the drug providing the same anti-malarial qualities but at lower cost and at larger scale, with a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In October 2020, Amyris acquired the rights to an RNA vaccine technology from the Infectious Disease Research Institute or IDRI in Seattle. IDRI’s platform delivers RNA medications packaged in nanoscale lipid particles. Under the agreement, Amyris and IDRI are collaborating on a Covid-19 vaccine that includes an adjuvant from Amyris from a synthetic form of squalene. In it’s natural form, squalene is an oil derived from shark livers that can boost immune system responses, but harvesting natural squalene is expensive, unreliable, and not sustainable. The license from IDRI allows for Amyris to use the technology for three other respiratory diseases or cancer.

Target: 1 billion doses next year

ImmunityBio was founded by biotechnology entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong to develop therapies for cancer that invoke the immune system. With the pandemic, the company applied its technology to Covid-19 vaccines, developing a vaccine delivered with under-the-skin injections and oral adjuvant drugs. That vaccine is in early-stage clinical trials, including in South Africa.

In the 50/50 agreement with Amyris, ImmunityBio will manufacture the Amyris/IDRI vaccine with squalene adjuvant for clinical trials. Once shown safe and effective in clinical trials, the companies say they aim to produce 1 billion doses of its vaccine next year, particularly for low-resource regions.

“The combination of the ImmunityBio manufacturing platform and our RNA technology can be the real difference maker for Covid-19,” says Amyris CEO John Melo in a company statement. “Our mission is to have a vaccine that is accessible to all people in the world and one that delivers the highest level of efficacy without the cold chain supply-chain requirements.”

Melo adds, “The early data is very promising and leads us to believe this will be the first and best performing second generation Covid-19 vaccine. The world needs a real sustainable solution for Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases that are likely to face us in the future.”

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