Top COVID-19 mRNA vaccine maker BioNTech is setting out to explore new and improved delivery technologies for mRNA vaccines, recently announcing a collaboration with New Jersey-based lipid nanocrystal developer Matinas BioPharma.
The $2.75 million deal will allow BioNTech to tap into Matinas’ Lipid Nanocrystal (LNC) Delivery Platform Technology to develop novel vaccine formulations, including a potential oral solution.
Under the deal, BioNTech will give Matinas BioPharma an upfront exclusive access fee and research funding. In a joint news release, Matinas and BioNTech said they’ve also started discussions on a license agreement for Matinas’ LNC platform.
Matinas BioPharma is a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company focused on using its proprietary LNC platform technology to innovate new ways to deliver nucleic acids and small molecules into cells.
LNC encapsulated structures are highly stable, which has major implications for the intracellular delivery of nucleic acids including mRNA.
According to Matinas BioPharma, the highly stable structure “allows for the avoidance of extreme cold chain storage temperatures required for maintaining the integrity of [lipid nanoparticles].” The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty must be stored at -90°C to -60°C. This presented logistical transport challenges as traditional cold chain storage systems are not equipped with ultracold freezer systems. And it was especially challenging in developing countries where such low-temperature freezers can be hard to come by in medical facilities.
While access to ultracold chain freezers has expanded during the pandemic, vaccine formulations that can be stored at higher temperatures would help cut costs and improve access. The stability of LNC structures allows them to be stored at higher temperatures, and also introduces the possibility of orally administered mRNA vaccines.
“We pioneered the treatment of the first patient in history with nano-sized lipid-encapsulated mRNA back in 2015, after years of extensive research. Accomplishing strong immune responses with low doses is crucial in the development of well-tolerated and highly effective vaccines. This can be achieved with the right technology that enables targeted vaccine delivery,” said Uğur Şahin, MD, chief executive officer and co-founder of BioNTech, in the joint news release.
“Matinas’ LNC platform demonstrates encouraging capabilities for intracellular delivery, including the opportunity for oral delivery. We are excited to collaborate with this extraordinary team of experts,” he said.
Matinas BioPharma also has an LNC partnership with Genentech and originally licensed the platform from Rutgers University to support the targeted intracellular delivery of a range of molecules, including mRNA.
In addition to partnering with pharmaceutical companies, Matinas says it is also developing its own portfolio of products involving novel delivery formulations through the “unique characteristics” of the LNC platform.