GreenLight Biosciences Raises $17 Million to Scale Up COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing

Vaccine manufacture

Boston-based GreenLight Biosciences closed an oversubscribed $17 million “special purpose funding round” in order to expand its scalable mRNA manufacturing capability for its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The goal is to be able to produce billions of doses.

The company indicates that in addition to expanding its manufacturing capacity, it is developing several different mRNA vaccine candidates against SARS-CoV-2.

Investors that participated included Flu Lab, Xeraya Capital and Baird Capital.

“GreenLight’s team and technology make them uniquely positioned to quickly bring large-scale, practical solutions to market for rapid pandemic response,” said Mike Liang, partner at Baird. “GreenLight’s approach promises the billions of doses needed with significantly faster manufacturing times than other technology platforms. Baird Capital believes GreenLight has the potential to be a critical part of us getting back to a healthy, functioning economy in the shortest possible time, and we are proud to support this team of talented scientists and researchers in their efforts.”

mRNA vaccines do not use an actual virus, which in theory provides shorter preclinical development times. Two of the more prominent companies working on mRNA-based vaccines include Moderna, which has the backing of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) with a manufacturing deal with Switzerland’s Lonza for large-scale manufacturing, and Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. Both of those groups have already begun clinical trials for their experimental mRNA vaccines. There are more than 100 vaccines against COVID-19 in development around the world.

The investment in GreenLight appears not only to be in support of a vaccine against COVID-19, but a bet that mRNA vaccines will be a major resource in future viral threats. To date, no mRNA vaccine has been approved for use in humans, although some do exist for veterinary treatment.

mRNA delivers the genetic code found in the RNA (or DNA) to the ribosomes, where the actual manufacture of proteins is conducted. Existing vaccines generally use a weakened or dead version of a virus or recombinant proteins, to stimulate the body’s immune response, so it will recognize the virus and kill or neutralize it. mRNA vaccines carry the genetic instructions for those viral proteins, so that when they are injected into the body, the cells produce the antigens themselves, which stimulates the immune system.

The biotech company’s flagship product is an alternative to pesticides that modifies the gene expression of harmful pests. The technology is being leveraged to develop mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. The Boston Business Journal indicates this is part of the company’s larger move into the life sciences.

The financing round was raised through GreenLight Pandemic Response, which GreenLight formed as a wholly-owned subsidiary, to raise these funds. In the original U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing on April 9, the company indicated plans to raise $15 million.

“An effective vaccine against COVID-19 is the only realistic means to stave off the spread of COVID-19 and enable a re-start of our global societies and economies,” said Andrey Zarur, chief executive officer of GreenLight. “mRNA based vaccines offer the best approach for a fast response. Our mRNA manufacturing platform has the potential to produce any mRNA vaccine candidate at a global scale and affordable cost. It is our responsibility to rapidly establish our cGMP manufacturing process to enable broad production of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. In addition, we are developing novel mRNA sequences to ensure we will be able to effectively respond to this crisis. Our vaccine platform and COVID-19 efforts are a significant component of our broader efforts in human health, where we are pursuing solutions against a number of critical global health needs. Our mission is to enable the global and affordable production of mRNA solutions.”

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