Gram-Scale mRNA Production Using a 250-mL Single-Use Bioreactor

Janja Skok, Polona Megušar, Tina Vodopivec, Domen Pregeljc, Nina Mencin, Matevž Korenč, Andreja Krušič, Anže Martinčič Celjar, Nejc Pavlin, Jana Krušič, Matthias Mueller, Kevin McHugh, Aleš Štrancar, and Rok Sekirnik

Chemie Ingenieur Techik, October 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented surge in development of mRNA-based vaccines. Despite the need to increase process productivity and thus decrease the cost of mRNA vaccines, limited scientific literature is available on strategies to increase the yield of in vitro transcription (IVT) reaction, the unit operation with highest cost of goods, which has traditionally been performed as a batch reaction. Single-use bioreactors are traditionally used for cell-based production of biopharmaceuticals, but some core functionalities, such as controlled and automated feed addition, are potentially useful for cell-free mRNA processes. We report the production of 2 g mRNA in an Ambr® 250 Modular bioreactor system with a starting volume of 100 mL, reaching a maximum mRNA concentration of 12 g L−1 by a fed-batch IVT approach, and demonstrate the feasibility of continuous fed-batch production, paving the way towards continuous manufacturing of mRNA.

  • Can IVT yields be increased beyond 5-8 g/L?
  • Does feeding nucleotides into the IVT reaction increase its yield?
  • Is there a fast analytical method to quantify NTPs in IVT in real-time?
  • Can production of mRNA be automated?
Transitioning from batch to fed-batch IVT can increase IVT yield to 12 g/L resulting in 50 % reduction in cost per gram of mRNA. Integrating HPLC monitoring of IVT reaction can allow real-time decisions on feed additions.

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