Tech & Science vaccine printer: Curevac and Tesla present mobile pharmaceutical laboratory
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The assumptions made by public officials, and the choices made by media, too often backfired.One might have expected the initial approval of the coronavirus vaccines to spark similar jubilation—especially after a brutal pandemic year. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the steady drumbeat of good news about the vaccines has been met with a chorus of relentless pessimism.
The Tübingen-based biotech company Curevac is working with the Rhineland-Palatinate Tesla subsidiary Grohmann on a drug printer for mRNA active ingredients that could also be used in medical practices.
medical practices and pharmacies are the target group of the new mRNA printer from the joint development of Curevac and Tesla Grohmann. The term “printer” is not entirely appropriate, because it is basically a mobile pharmaceutical laboratory that is more like the color mixing systems from the hardware store than a printer.
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RNA microfactory as big as a car
Tesla boss Elon Musk prefers to refer to the development, which was actually registered for a patent in June 2019 under the name “RNA Printer”, as an “RNA microfactory”.
Tesla, as a side project, is building RNA microfactories for CureVac & possibly others- Elon Musk (@elonmusk)
A prototype of the microfactory already exists at Curevac in Tübingen. It should be about the size of a car and easy to transport and set up. Once set up, the “printer” is supposed to be a small factory for RNA drugs.
The microfactory should be able to download the assembly instructions for the mRNA required in each case from the cloud. The raw materials required for the respective “recipe” would be delivered by messenger.
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The device is designed as a clean room with an attached freezer. The cleanroom quality is necessary in order to avoid that external substances contaminate the product and the freezer must protect the finished mRNA from decay.This is behind the term mRNA
Most people first heard of the term mRNA in the discussion about corona vaccines. MRNA (messenger RNA) has long been considered the technology of the future, especially in cancer research.
Because with the messenger substance, human cells can be stimulated to produce certain protein building blocks predefined by the mRNA themselves. This allows a wide range of body reactions to be programmed and, with the Curevacs printer technology, even tailored to the individual patient.
In the current mRNA vaccines, the messenger substance carries the blueprint for the so-called S protein, a protein component that is assigned to the shell of the new coronavirus Sars-CoV-2. Because the human body is stimulated by mRNA to produce this S-protein itself, the immune system is supposed to be stimulated to react to this actually unknown protein.development has been running since 2015
Curevac and Grohmann have been working on the project since 2015, according to Wirtschaftswoche, which was briefly on the brink when Grohmann was taken over by Tesla in 2017. Tesla usually takes over companies in order to only let them work for their own purposes afterwards.
Curevac boss Ingmar Hoerr then met personally with Tesla boss Musk, who is said to have shown spontaneously enthusiastic and let Grohmann pursue the project further. The first strands of RNA should run out of the device in summer 2021. According to Hoerr, however, the project is still years away from being suitable for the masses.
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