Maravai invests further $20m in CDMO biz on back of rising mRNA interest

Maravai LifeSciences has increased investment in its CDMO business TriLink BioTechnologies to $60 million as mRNA, CRISPR and advanced therapies drive demand.

Maravai LifeSciences acquired the contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) TriLink in 2016, adding messenger RNA (mRNA), oligonucleotide and plasmid production capabilities for companies focused on therapeutic, vaccine and diagnostic development.

Last year, Maravai announced it was expanding TriLink, leasing a new facility in the Sorrento Valley area of San Diego and relocating its current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) production capabilities. Nine months on it is expanding the CDMO business again.

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In November 2019, Maravai’s original expansion was $40 million, including new headquarters. The current expansion is about half of that original cost, the company told us.

“In 2019, TriLink jumped from one cGMP suite to five cGMP suites and entered 2020 with the capacity to manufacture up to 10 kg of its CleanCap [TriLink’s mRNA capping technology] material. With the expansion, it will be able to produce quantities in the 50 to 100 kg range.”

The need to expand again in such a short time has been attributed to the popularity of mRNA therapeutics, which the firm said is the main driver. However, advancements in gene editing and cell therapy such as CRISPR, base editors, and CAR-T therapies were factors, we were told.

While no mRNA therapies or vaccines have reached commercialization, the modality has garnered much attention over the past six months due to attempts by industry to develop an mRNA vaccine against COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. Moderna and Pfizer, through its partnership with BioNTech, are leading the way, with their respective candidates in late stage clinical trials.

TriLink collaborated with Imperial College London on an saRNA vaccine candidate in April, with the candidate entering clinical trials in July. However, the firm was unable to divulge whether TriLink was supporting other efforts due to confidentiality agreements.

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