Charles River bags Ziphius contract in ever-growing RNA space

Charles River Laboratories will manufacture plasmid DNA-based starting materials to support Ziphius Vaccines’ self-amplifying mRNA candidates.

The deal will see Belgium-based vaccine developer Ziphius Vaccines leverage Charles River Laboratories’ plasmid DNA network toward clinical testing and further validation of its self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccine candidates.

While the specific candidates have not been disclosed, Ziphius’s lead program focuses on COVID-19, though the firm is also looking at developing vaccines against dengue fever, chlamydia, and cystic fibrosis.

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No financials have been disclosed.

For Charles River, the announcement comes in the wake of increased demand for RNA-related services stemming from the pandemic.

“The approval and distribution of mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic served to accelerate this growing field of therapeutic development,” Kerstin Dolph, corporate SVP of Biologics Solutions Management at Charles River, told BioProcess Insider.

“We are excited to further advance Ziphius Vaccines’ work in saRNA-based vaccine development, and look forward to partnering as they progress the program.”

Furthermore, along with the recently announced partnership with ASC Therapeutics to manufacture a gene therapy for hemophilia A, further validates Charles River’s aggressive move into the advanced therapy space by building up its contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) business.

“In 2021, we completed a series of acquisitions that significantly enhanced our manufacturing capabilities. Cognate BioServices, Cobra Biologics, and Vigene Biosciences were established industry leaders in viral vector, plasmid DNA and cellular therapy production for clinical through to commercial supply,” Dolph said.

“Their addition to our portfolio has expanded our comprehensive cell and gene therapy offering to include robust CDMO capabilities. In plasmid DNA, specifically, Cobra’s legacy site in Keele, UK has a 20-year track record as a GMP-licensed manufacturing facility, with 2 x 50 L GMP plasmid production streams.”

And further advancement in the sector is coming, Dolph continued. “This fall we’re opening a new facility in Alderley Park, which will add 16,000 square feet to our manufacturing capacity in the UK, with three independent production suites for 15L fermentation of high-quality (HQ) plasmids including fill/finish, and capabilities for both off-the-shelf and custom manufacturing.”