Primordial Genetics Awarded $1.15M Grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences for Revolutionary Ways to Manufacture Therapeutics and Vaccines

By August 6, 2020April 30th, 2021No Comments

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health has awarded a Pharmacology, Physiology, and Biological Chemistry Research award in the amount of $1,152,047.00 to Primordial Genetics to enable next-generation mRNA therapeutic and vaccine manufacturing that will impact the prevention and treatment of cancers, viral diseases such as COVID-19, HIV and Hepatitis B, and genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

Primordial Genetics will develop multiple enzymes suitable for large-scale manufacture of clinical-grade RNA. RNA polymerases are enzymes used for manufacturing messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA), one of the carriers of genetic information in all organisms. Medicines and vaccines based on mRNA are currently limited by the difficulty associated with production of clinical quantities of intact, high-quality mRNA that is efficiently taken up and used by the human body. Development of novel mRNA polymerases will help accelerate the development and production of this novel and highly promising class of therapeutics and vaccines.

“RNA therapeutics and vaccines represent the latest wave of innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. Instead of delivering biological therapeutics and vaccines in the form of proteins, companies are developing mRNA drugs which are more flexible with a significantly shorter path to market. A great example of this trend are the vaccines being created for COVID-19 which are almost exclusively RNA based. The rush to create a vaccine against COVID-19 will create a demand for large-scale manufacturing of clinical-grade mRNA. Primordial Genetics is excited to be part of this effort by contributing more efficient RNA polymerases for manufacture of the RNAs required for these life-saving vaccines and medicines.” – Helge Zieler, Ph.D., founder and president of Primordial Genetics.

The enzymes developed will strongly impact the RNA manufacturing options available to the pharmaceutical and agricultural biotechnology industries. Specific commercial benefits of this project include:

  • The RNA polymerases discovered and developed in this project will be licensed to companies requiring mRNA manufacturing solutions, specifically companies with a need to synthesize large quantities of mRNAs >1kb in length and free of contaminating double-stranded RNA
  • Enablement of high-quality mRNA production and manufacturing beyond human clinical purposes, for example for animal health, crop agriculture and for sale in R&D kits and reagents

The project is divided into specific aims to be conducted over 18 months:

  1. Improvement of 4 selected RNA polymerases;
  2. Deep characterization of improved RNA polymerases; and
  3. Pilot scale manufacturing.

The NIH awarded grant number is 2R44GM131548-02.


Primordial Genetics was founded in 2011 with the goal of developing novel industry-relevant enabling genetic technologies, and building the premier company for microbial genetic improvement. Our ultimate goal is to be able to shape the genetics and characteristics of useful organisms and useful biomolecules rapidly and flexibly. Function Generator™, our platform technology, is broadly capable of developing novel and advanced traits in microbes used for the production of useful compounds ranging from fuels and chemicals to pharmaceuticals and enzymes. The technology also represents a novel way for optimizing enzymes with higher catalytic efficiency, improved temperature tolerance, altered substrate specificity, and resistance to inhibitors. We are passionate about engineering superior novel microbes that lead to a healthy, sustainable planet.