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The University of Queensland is partnering with Oxford Nanopore Technologies to analyze mRNA vaccines and therapies to improve the quality of these products worldwide. A study from the Queensland researchers showing how Nanopore sequencing could improve this process was published today in Nature Communications

Lead author Helen M. Gunter said, in a press release, that in the future mRNA vaccines could be analyzed in “real-time, providing testing within hours of manufacture so quality control issues could be quickly detected.” Such rapid analysis would be critical for the manufacture of vaccines during a pandemic, or to support the future development of personalized therapies.

This is a key strategic move for Nanopore, a leading player in the world DNA sequencing market, which is estimated to be worth over $40B by 2032. Nanopore’s DNA sequencing reads the code of single DNA strands as they are threaded through tiny nanopores embedded in a membrane. The company touts its technology’s “unique real-time, scalable features.”

The recent success of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines had focused considerable attention and investment on the development of mRNA vaccines and therapies, with estimates valuing the mRNA market at $68 billion by 2030.

Gunter is affiliated with BASE, which is a non-profit research services facility located at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN). BASE is the biggest supplier of research-use mRNA in Australia, having handled more than 200 mRNA vaccines and therapies for academic, clinical and industry use.

Under the new partnership with Nanopore, BASE researchers will use the nanopore-based sequencing technology to optimize performance and reduce the time needed to measure mRNA vaccine quality attributes.

“Currently, mRNA vaccines and therapies are analyzed using a range of different methods that are time-consuming, complicated, and costly, and often outdated,” said Gunter.

“By using Oxford Nanopore Technologies sequencing, we can directly analyze each individual mRNA vaccine molecule as it passes through a protein nanopore, providing a real-time measurement of the mRNA sequence identity and integrity,” she added.

This approach could also provide a useful research tool to better understand how mRNA vaccines work by studying how they behave within cells, Gunter said. To realize their potential, she added, mRNA products must be manufactured at the high quality needed to ensure their effectiveness.

“Ultimately, we anticipate the use of nanopore RNA sequencing methods will become central to the development and manufacture of mRNA drugs,” she said.

“We are excited to partner with the BASE team at The University of Queensland to further research supporting the manufacture and quality control of mRNA vaccines and therapies,” said Gordon Sanghera, PhD, CEO of Oxford Nanopore. “Nanopore sequencing is the only sensing technology that can read native RNA in real time, making it an essential part of the toolkit supporting the development of mRNA-based therapeutics.”

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