Vaccine makers in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region are keen to ramp up capacities for mRNA technology, according to a study sponsored by Merck.

Covid-19 had put the global spotlight on mRNA technologies, including its use in vaccines.

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According to nearly 40 manufacturers in the region who took part in the survey, mRNA technology was seen as a “game-changer”, the note said. Japan, South Korea, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, China, and India are among the markets actively exploring to develop mRNA technology, it added.

“Vaccine manufacturers in APAC are looking to build capacity for mRNA technology over the next two to three years while continuing to produce both traditional and modern cell-based vaccines,” said Josephine Cheng, Senior Consultant (Process Solutions APAC), at Merck’s Life Science business sector.

“Across APAC, governments are investing and supportive of driving therapeutic discovery and manufacturing. With the range of tools we offer, we can better equip vaccine manufacturers to treat the regional and global population,” she said. Merck’s Life Science business supports mRNA manufacturers to accelerate speed to market, and in turn the delivery of mRNA vaccines to patients worldwide.

‘Key modality’

The study interviewed vaccine manufacturers across APAC, including research institutes, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, Merck said. “87 per cent deemed mRNA a promising technology, expecting it to be a key modality in the future. This is based on the perception that the mRNA platform benefits from shorter development time and templated manufacturing processes, proven efficacy, lower biohazard risk for operators, and flexibility in covering different types of diseases and variants.”  

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Over 60 per cent of the vaccine makers prefer to revamp or establish new facilities, especially for mRNA with expansion planned over the next two to three years. To effectively move mRNA forward, respondents highlighted the need for skilled personnel trained in these new technologies, tech-transfer expertise, a reliable supply chain, and mRNA-specific regulatory guidelines, the note said.

Aditya Sharma, Head – Bioprocessing, Merck Life Science India, added, “India is exploring mRNA vaccines and is focused on developing its own mRNA vaccine in partnership with global organisations. India’s diverse pharmaceutical industry and large population offer opportunities for the production of mRNA vaccines. Indian companies have produced the first plasmid DNA-based vaccine, and several programs for messenger RNA (mRNA) are being leveraged by Indian manufacturers for vaccines and therapies.”

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