The RNA Printer®: Our mobile production site

The RNA Printer is flexible in use and can produce mRNA active ingredients at almost any location. In the future, it will be used to either support drug production in large-scale facilities or be stationed at locations where the incidence of infection is particularly high and rapid response is required. The RNA Printer® has the potential to play an important role in accelerating the development of vaccines against viral mutations thanks to its adaptability and automated processes. It is also capable of producing personalized medicine products on-site in hospitals.

The production process of the RNA Printer® is identical to industrial production, but on a smaller scale and largely automated. The production of RNA-based vaccines and therapeutics follows Good Manufacturing Practice (1) and can be divided into three individual processes:

 

(1) Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP): Guidelines for quality assurance of the production processes and environment in the production of drugs and active substances

Production of DNA template

In the first step, the DNA template, which is necessary for RNA synthesis, is produced.

Synthesis and Purification

The second manufacturing step involves the synthesis and purification of the active ingredient RNA.

Formulation of active substance

In the third step, the active substance is formulated, sterile filtered and filled. The formulation allows the active substance to be better absorbed into the body’s cells after application.

On the left, the starting materials and solutions are introduced in a media supply section.

In the next step, a reactor carries out the synthesis of the active substance. Then the automatic purification of the newly produced material takes place.

In the last section, the substance is cleaned, filtered and filled.

The process takes place in a closed system and is protected from contamination by a clean airflow. The design of the machines allows for automatic cleaning and thus a quick product change.

The first prototype development at CureVac began in 2014, followed by a collaboration with special purpose machine builder Grohmann Engineering in 2015. After the acquisition by Tesla Motors in early 2017 and the name change to Tesla Grohmann Automation, CureVac continued the development of The RNA Printer® together with Grohmann. Prototypes of the Printer are currently in development. CureVac aims to produce clinical material under GMP conditions for the first time using The RNA Printer® in 2021.

Frequently asked questions

Why do you call the mobile production facility a printer?

In some ways, The RNA Printer® is analogous to the technology used for letterpress printing:

The letters used as starting materials are introduced and sorted according to a given text – this corresponds to the synthesis. The result is the final book – the mRNA vaccine product. Thus the printer is a small-scale pharmaceutical production.


What are the dimensions of the printer?

One RNA Printer module is 4 meters long, 2 meters high and 1.5 meters deep.


How long does it take to produce RNA with the printer?

It takes a few weeks from the digital sequence to the product. The actual production process only takes one week.


How large will the production quantities be?

We expect to be able to produce one to three grams of mRNA per week. Depending on the dose needed for the final product, several hundred thousand doses per week and line may be possible.