Driving the expansion of mRNA into the therapeutic sphere

Cell & Gene Therapy Insights 2023; 9(3), 315–325

DOI: 10.18609/cgti.2023.015

Published: 11 April 2023
Expert Roundtable
Alejandro Becerra, Andreas Kuhn, Metin Kurtoglu

The advanced therapies industry is heavily engaged in capitalizing upon the extensive ‘proof of concept’ gained through the success of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines. Novel therapeutic applications in major disease areas, including oncology, continue to show promise in preclinical and early clinical studies, yet challenges remain.

Here, Elisa Manzotti, CEO of BioInsights, speaks to Alejandro Becerra, Thermo Fisher Scienitific, Andreas Kuhn, BioNTech, and Metin Kurtoglu, Cartesian Therapeutics to consider the ever-expanding reach of mRNA technology, exploring at a high level how and where it will impact the advanced therapies space moving forward. The panel will then dive deeper into specific trends, issues, and innovations in mRNA processing (particularly downstream) and analytical development, discussing key areas for improvement and corresponding solutions.

If you enjoy this article, you can also view the recorded Roundtable discussion here.

Alejandro Becerra is a Principal Applications Scientist and Global Purification Technical Lead. Alejandro has over 15 years of experience in downstream processing and customer support having worked as Purification Team Manager and other bioprocess engineering roles prior to joining Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2018. Dr Becerra is a subject matter expert in preparative chromatography with expertise in the development, optimization and scale-up of antibody, recombinant protein, and viral vector purification processes. Alejandro holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University.

Andreas Kuhn has worked with RNA for almost 30 years. This started with his diploma and PhD theses on the structure and function of small non-coding RNAs using biochemical and molecular biology methods. In his post-doctoral work, Andreas studied RNA-protein interactions in the spliceosome in yeast and later worked on small molecules to affect pre-mRNA splicing. His work on mRNA-based immunotherapies began in 2007 in the academic group of Ugur Sahin at the University Clinic Mainz, and Andreas joined BioNTech SE shortly after its founding in 2008. In his current role as Senior Vice President RNA Biochemistry & Manufacturing, the main focus is expanding proprietary technologies to increase the efficacy of mRNA-based therapies and to develop and optimize GMP-compatible manufacturing processes and analytical methods for RNA. He has co-authored numerous publications and patents ranging from basic research on RNA to its application as a therapeutic agent and vaccine.

Metin Kurtoglu is a medical oncologist board certified in internal medicine. Dr Kurtoglu’s clinical and basic science research career spans over 20 years and has focused on developing novel targets for drug-resistant cancer cells and cancer stem cells, including multiple myeloma. He has also been an investigator in various cancer immunotherapy trials. Cartesian Therapeutics is pioneering RNA cell therapies in and beyond oncology, with three assets in clinical trials for autoimmune, oncologic, and respiratory disorders. The investigational therapies are manufactured at Cartesian’s cGMP manufacturing facility.