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Yigang Teng, Chief Scientist of Yeasen Biotechnology: Helping break the bottleneck of domestic mRNA drug research and development


"The domestic bottleneck on the raw material side has basically been solved, but the delivery side still needs us to work together."

Undoubtedly, much attention has been attracted to the mRNA track in the year 2021. The development of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is just as fast as the day, and the research on tumor vaccines is also leading the international trend. There are more and more companies and research institutions engaged in mRNA research and development (R&D) and production in China, and the demand for development, technology, technique, and raw materials is also increasing. The continuous mutation and local epidemic of the coronavirus have brought new challenges to the overall drug manufacturing procedures.

As a raw material supplier with broad coverage, Yeasen Biotechnology has been working in the mRNA field for a long time, mostly relying on 3 platforms, namely advanced molecular enzyme two-way technology platform, large-scale protein fermentation and purification technology platform, and high-efficiency antibody screening technology platform. With a focus on the R&D and production of enzyme raw materials and library prep kits, and other products, Yeasen can realize industrial enlargement, and can also carry out special development for individual needs.

Recently, Yimaike Media and "FENGCLUB" invited Dr. Yigang Teng, the chief scientist of Yeasen Biotechnology, to conduct interviews on topics such as the development of mRNA drug track, domestic R&D bottlenecks and how Yeasen Biotechnology broke the game.

mRNA drugs: spur with long accumulation 

FENGCLUB: In your opinion, what are the current status quo that impressed you in China's entire bio-innovative drug field in 2021?

Yigang Teng: 

I think the most impressive thing this year is mRNA drugs, and even in 2020.

FENGCLUB: Regarding the products you are currently aware of about mRNA research or marketing, or companies under research, can you share with us your overall understanding of mRNA technology as medicine or vaccine?

Yigang Teng: 

mRNA drugs have actually been studied for a long time at home and abroad, but they have suddenly become popular recently because of the coronavirus. Of course, the coronavirus is not the only reason for its popularity, but only as an opportunity to ignite this phenomenon.

The biggest advantage of mRNA is its flexibility and speed. In foreign countries, everyone knows that two drugs (BNT162b2, Modrna1273) have been launched quickly with impressive results. There are also quite a few companies in the country that have joined this track, and it has developed very rapidly. 

The domestic R&D bottleneck is still there, and Yeasen actively breaks the game

FENGCLUB: Can you share some of your own research experience on the nucleic acid drug track?

Yigang Teng: 

Yeasen itself is positioned as a supplier of raw materials, which also includes raw materials related to mRNA drugs. In the process of our research, we found that mRNA drugs are indeed very simple and fast. Taking foreign countries as an example, they can usually enter the clinic in about 10 months. Of course, the domestic progress is a little slower in this regard, but the prospects are still very good.

FENGCLUB: There are many domestic companies engaged in the R&D of mRNA or nucleic acid drugs. In the previous interviews, some guests also mentioned the bottleneck of R&D, some would say that it was a bottleneck on the raw material side, the others would say that it was a bottleneck in the delivery system, and so on. So, in your opinion, what are the breakthrough points for mRNA to be made into medicines or vaccines?

Yigang Teng: 

Just looking at the domestic situation, the two points just mentioned are right. The first is the bottleneck of the raw materials, and the second is the bottleneck of the delivery system. The bottleneck of the delivery system is still difficult at present, because there are patent barriers abroad, but domestic companies are still insisting on R&D.

But the bottleneck of raw materials should not be a problem this year. Domestically, including Yeasen, a large amount of raw material has been invested, and it has been transformed into a huge production capacity. By the end of this year, Yeasen will have opened a new base. In this way, the output that Yeasen can supply can be converted into the final mRNA drug-related measurement to reach 10 billion doses.

Therefore, the domestic bottleneck on the raw material side has basically been solved, but the delivery side still needs us to work together.

FENGCLUB: Through our interview, can you talk in detail about your theme sharing at the BPID (Biopharmaceutical Industry Development Conference) 2021?

Yigang Teng: 

The content shared at the conference is still related to mRNA drugs, and it also fits our own raw material field. It explains to the participants how Yeasen produces these related materials, including products such as some enzymes and small substrates, molecules, ATP, and cap analogs.

Furthermore, we mainly introduced Yeasen's production base. The overall management of our production base is strictly carried out by GMP standards. At the same time, Yeasen has a rich and comprehensive raw material product line, having not only enzyme raw materials, but also small molecule raw materials, etc., which can include a series of products involved in each stage of the synthesis, modification, and purification of the overall production process of mRNA drugs. In addition, Yeasen will also simulate the in vitro synthesis, modification and purification of mRNA required by customers to evaluate its own products.

FENGCLUB: Is it convenient to reveal the general situation of Yeasen’s current orders?

Yigang Teng: 

In terms of orders, everyone knows that Yeasen, as a raw material supplier, mainly supplies some domestic enterprises. As most domestic companies are still in the R&D stage, the demand at this stage is not high. However, we are still optimistic about the prospects of the domestic market. Therefore, Yeasen has also invested a lot of resources to solve the problem of raw material bottlenecks and help some domestic mRNA vaccine manufacturers to relieve their worries.

FENGCLUB: In the field of nucleic acid, what kind of services can Yeasen provide for some R&D companies and scientific research institutions?

Yigang Teng: 

Yeasen has invested a lot of resources in the field of mRNA medicine to help customers solve the problem of raw material supply. Yeasen Biotechnology is now one of the few domestic companies that can provide both enzyme raw materials and substrate small molecule raw materials for downstream pharmaceutical companies.