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It’s an exciting time in biopharma, as recent scientific breakthroughs are leading to new therapies with the potential to transform patient care and complex disease management. Cytiva — a global provider of technologies and services that advance the development, manufacturing, and delivery of therapeutics — recently sat down with the company’s general manager for nucleic acid therapeutics, to learn more about what’s happening now and what’s on the horizon. Here they discuss mRNA’s promise beyond Covid, and why it could be the key to unlocking a future of better healthcare worldwide.

Cytiva: You told us you don’t want to spend too much time on Covid in this conversation. Why is that?

Ripley: What the industry did with mRNA for the global pandemic was astounding, but we’re really just scratching the surface of its clinical potential. Scientists were originally looking at mRNA for cancer vaccine and protein replacement applications, and decades of this research made it possible to deliver mRNA-based Covid vaccines in record time. The pandemic essentially accelerated the journey toward the original goal with mRNA — to harness its power to treat cancer and potentially cure other diseases that currently have limited therapeutic options.

Cytiva: So how will the work that has gone into developing mRNA vaccines help us develop other treatments?

Ripley: It’s actually the convergence of mRNA and other scientific areas that’s most fascinating to me. The industry has made advances in CRISPR, immuno-oncology, and intra-cellular antibodies in the past few decades. Adding mRNA to the mix unlocked the power of these other approaches. Take immuno-oncology, for example: While CAR T cell therapy has traditionally required cells to be extracted from a patient, modified, then reinfused, mRNA could enable in vivo cell therapy — modifying T cells in the body without ever having to remove them from the patient. That capability has huge implications for improved scalability, efficacy, safety, and the patient experience. mRNA is, in many ways, the right molecule at the right time that will help us to unlock the therapeutic potential of other science. The perfect storm.

“mRNA is, in many ways, the right molecule at the right time that will help us to unlock the therapeutic potential of other science.”

Scott Ripley

Cytiva: How are we seeing the industry and global economies prepare for mRNA’s increased use in drug research and development?

Ripley: We are seeing major infrastructure investments in recognition of mRNA’s diverse potential to create anything from an individualized, targeted, single-patient dose to mass-market vaccines. Biopharma companies and CDMOs are ramping up their manufacturing capacities to support mRNA and meet future demands, with the understanding that a truly personalized medicine requires flexible, agile platforms. Governments are working with biopharma businesses to build localized manufacturing. And more biopharma companies are building new manufacturing capabilities with some of the most modern technologies in lower income countries which, in turn, increases global access overnight.

Cytiva: What other hurdles will we need to clear to realize the potential of mRNA and other therapeutic approaches?

Ripley: Demonstrating the clinical benefit of these therapies with supporting data will always be priority number one. Another aspect Cytiva is really focused on is delivering security of supply for our customers, and the topic of resilience is going to be top-of-mind for the foreseeable future. By building on our robust infrastructure, we are working to provide what biopharma companies need in the moment while also preparing to fulfill demand in the long-term.

It’s a big undertaking with many roads still to travel — but I’m so happy to be a part of it, and excited about what we can accomplish for healthcare in the future.

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Scott Ripley is the General Manager of the Nucleic Acid Therapeutics business for Cytiva, leading the global commercial go-to-market strategy. Scott has over twenty years of experience across research and bioprocess businesses including a recent focus on the mRNA domain.