Producing RNA to Address Global Challenges
GreenLight has partnered with some of the world's leading corporations, academic institutions, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations to develop RNA-based solutions that address global needs.
RNA for Agriculture
Agricultural pests affect every region on the globe, but have a more pronounced impact among the poorest nations due to their inability to invest in modern agricultural practices.
The estimated global crop loss to pests is >$100 Billion every year. These include insects, weeds, plant viruses, and fungi; many of these either have no current means of control or have developed resistance against our traditional pesticides. Additionally, greater than 95% of the total pesticides sprayed never reach their target species. The vast majority of the chemicals sprayed or applied end up accumulating in our soil, water or food; affecting beneficial insects, such as bees and butterflies.
dsRNA can be utilized to efficiently and specifically target the pest of interest through a natural process known as RNA interference (RNAi). RNAi is a process found in most living organisms wherein it acts to transiently control a variety of functions. We can take advantage of this process to control pests through suppression of key genes in a temporary and reversible manner. By matching the sequence of the native RNA encoding an essential gene in the target pest, expression of that gene can be disrupted, effectively silencing it, resulting in death of the target pest. In addition to directly killing pests, RNA can be used to control other processes vital to pest proliferation and virulence. For example, RNAi can inhibit wing development in insects, or can block herbidical resistance development in weeds. RNA interference is highly specific, in that its effects are confined to the targeted pest. A treatment that blocks wing development in one insect pest could be made completely innocuous to other beneficial insects, such as bees.
GreenLight has ongoing collaborations with leading agricultural companies to develop and bring to market integrated RNA solutions to significant crop pests. In addition, GreenLight is developing proprietary targets for specialty crops. GreenLight projects that the cost of these next-generation pesticides will be comparable to, or even lower than, traditional chemical treatments. We expect to initiate field testing of these approaches in early 2018.
RNA for Vector Control Applications
Diseases spread by mammals, birds, or most frequently, insects (collectively referred to as vectors) present substantial global health challenges. Mosquitos currently represent the most threatening vector to both domestic and global communities, resulting in millions of deaths per year (World Health Organization). Several of the diseases propagated by mosquitos do not have effective cures (for example Zika, Dengue, and West Nile fevers). For others, such as malaria, treatments are prohibitively expensive for the most affected populations, and resistance is developing rapidly. Targeting vectors represents a powerful option for controlling and eventually eradicating these diseases. However, like chemical pesticides, many approaches for reducing mosquito populations are too expensive for large scale deployment and can damage non-targeted species and ecosystems.
RNA can selectively target disease vectors without adversely impacting other organisms. A specific species of mosquito could be precisely targeted due to the high specificity of RNA interference. GreenLight’s Cell-Free platform makes large scale production feasible and enables deployment of RNA technology to regions of all economic standing. The adaptable nature of the platform facilitates rapid design and deployment of new solutions to emerging vectors and diseases. We believe that RNA technology, enabled by our platform, will be a powerful tool towards eradicating these burdensome diseases.
RNA for Vaccines
mRNA Vaccines constitute one of the most promising avenues to address global pandemics, as well as to replace traditional neo-natal and annual vaccines. These vaccines combine desirable immunological properties with an outstanding safety profile, as well as limitless flexibility to target rapidly-mutating pathogens. Several large pharmaceutical companies, as well as nascent biotechnology startups, are in the process of developing mRNA vaccines, both for human and animal use. However, speed of development and efficient, scaled manufacturing remain enormous challenges in making mRNA vaccines a commercial reality.
The GreenLight cell-free RNA platform is capable of producing high-quality, high-fidelity mRNA sequences suitable to be used in vaccine exploration. The unprecedented flexibility and scalability of GreenLight’s platform enable rapid development of new vaccines coupled with large-scale efficient manufacturing potential.