CPI launches RNA Centre of Excellence and training academy

CPI have launched an RNA Centre of Excellence in Darlington to boost development, scale-up and manufacture of RNA therapies and vaccines.

RNA inside vaccine vial

The UK’s Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) have announced the launch of an RNA Centre of Excellence and training academy to support the development, scale-up and manufacture of novel and new RNA therapies and vaccines.

The centre is being created to prepare for the increasing global demand for the use of RNA and, specifically, messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that have been crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The agility of RNA technology makes it a real game changer for therapeutics,” explained Dr Lucy Foley, Director of Biologics at CPI. “Having established itself as a breakthrough technology during the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be prepared with the skills and facilities to support this emerging RNA industry.”

CPI will be expanding capacity at its site in Darlington, UK, to include GMP facilities for the clinical manufacture of RNA, and is collaborating with the National Horizons Centre, part of Teesside University, to form a new National Training Academy for RNA Therapeutics and Vaccines Manufacture. 

Built by Merit, the new GMP ready facility is expected to be ready in November. According to CPI, the modular nature of the building will enable the facility to be quickly increased in size to cope with emerging pandemics or infectious disease threats if required. The extra facilities will also support government programmes, industry R&D and the development of RNA manufacturing technologies and processes, it said.

According to CPI, apprentices, technicians, scientists, and executives will be able to access a series of courses on the development and manufacture of RNA, RNA encapsulation and final formulation at the National Training Academy for RNA from January 2022.

“We are very pleased to be working collaboratively with CPI to deliver this much needed Centre of Excellence, which will help to scale up the manufacturing of novel RNA therapies and vaccines,” commented Tony Wells, CEO of Merit. “The new facility will be delivered using Merit’s VacciPOD™ solution, based on our standard vaccine manufacturing building designs, which have previously been validated by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).”

“More than 90 percent of the facility will be manufactured offsite at Merit’s North East factory and delivered in half the time taken to construct using traditional methods. The region is becoming an important player in the UK life sciences arena, delivering critical advancements in medicines as well as life-changing therapies,” Wells continued.

CPI is currently the only company based in the UK capable of developing, manufacturing and encapsulating RNA vaccines ready for use in clinical trials in one location. According to CPI, this end-to-end capability on one site in the UK will help to drive the productivity and efficiency of RNA manufacturing. 

“Both the RNA Centre of Excellence and Training Academy will support the development of new licensed RNA products for the treatment of many different diseases,” added Foley. “This is fantastic news for the biopharmaceutical industry, and for human health.”