GreenLight Biosciences just christened its new production facility in Rochester, New York, where the biotech startup aims to mass-produce RNA and enzymes for use in pest-fighting crop products. The company, which focuses on RNA research, design, and manufacturing for human, animal, and plant health, says its proprietary technology can produce RNA more efficiently and cheaply than other companies.
GreenLight launched about the same time as fellow biotech powerhouses Moderna and BioNTech, whose mRNA technologies are behind two of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the U.S. The company plans to partner with other firms while also developing its own RNA-based products. Those partners include academic research institutions and companies in the agricultural, pharmaceutical, consumer goods, and energy industries.
CEO Andrey Zarur explains that GreenLight’s platform combines two mRNA approaches — one that involves fermentation-based processes and another utilized by high-profile companies like Moderna and BioNTech involving transcription. The result is what the company calls “cell-free bioprocessing”and allows the company to produce mRNA-based products at much higher scale and much lower cost than the bigger names, according to Zarur. The company’s scientific advisory panel includes Robert Langer, the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and Moderna cofounder, as well as University of Pennsylvania mRNA researcher Drew Weissman.
The new 17,000 square foot Rochester manufacturing facility has an installed capacity at 500 kg per year, with ready expansion to 1,000 kg. The site and utility infrastructure supports a further expansion of RNA production of up to 100 metric tons per year. The first two solutions that the company plans to turn out will protect potato farmers from the Colorado beetle while another protects honeybees from the varroa destructor. The potato-beetle product is expected to receive U.S. regulatory approval in the first half of 2022 while the honeybee solution, a program it licensed from Bayer, is expected to launch in 2024.
Zarur added that GreenLight had never planned on stopping at agriculture, but it was the first application where the company directed its platform. He touted GreenLight’s scientific advisory panel as pivotal to helping the company branch out into life sciences a couple years ago.
In total, the company has 14 products in its pipeline that also include a Covid-19 vaccine, a flu vaccine, and a gene therapy for sickle cell disease. Based on its pipeline, GreenLight estimates that its revenue could grow from $2 million this year to nearly $850 million in 2026. Money would come from commercializing its own products or by collecting royalties through partnerships.
GreenLight is also trying to pioneer what it calls a “blueprint to vaccinate the world,” a plan to scale manufacturing of vaccines around the world to help end the pandemic and more quickly to tackle the next one. The company is proposing a network of seven RNA vaccine factories across the globe, sponsored by public-private partnerships.
GreenLight announced plans in August to be listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange via a SPAC merger with Environmental Impact Acquisition Corp.(Nasdaq: ENVI) with an estimated valuation of approximately $1.2 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year, subject to stockholder approval. Visit GreenLight’s website HERE. (Sources: EndPoints, Stat News, Boston Globe)