Software aims to accelerate mRNA and RNA therapeutic development

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Benchling has introduced capabilities for designing, modelling, and studying natural and chemically modified RNA in a single solution. As the biopharmaceutical industry increases its focus on developing RNA therapeutics, Benchling’s new RNA solution is the first purpose-built offering to help R&D organisations accelerate the delivery of drug candidates. 

Featuring an RNA-aware registry with visualisation tools for oligo and mRNA design and the only tool with support for chemical modification of mRNA sequences, RNA biologists and chemists can now collaborate more efficiently, standardise their work across teams, and develop drug candidates faster. 

Ashu Singhal, co-founder and president of Benchling comments: ‘Covid vaccines were really just the beginning – as we put more tools in the hands of scientists to help support their RNA therapeutics R&D, this field will really take off. With Benchling’s new RNA capabilities, scientists can now design, develop, and test a new mRNA vaccine or RNA cancer treatment from start to finish on a single platform.

Francois Vigneault, co-founder and CEO of Shape Therapeutics added: ‘RNA has nearly unlimited potential to cure a wide range of diseases. Benchling's full set of purpose-built tools for RNA therapy development is going to enable us to realise this potential at an even greater pace than before.’

Following the successful deployment of RNA technology in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines, biopharma companies have quickly shifted their pipelines to uncover therapeutic opportunities with RNA and mRNA. RNA therapeutics include a diverse group of therapeutic molecules that range from mRNA vaccines to antisense oligos, RNA-based gene therapy, and guide RNA-based CRISPR complexes. The unique function of these molecules, combined with the ability to adjust key properties through chemical modification or conjugation, has opened up novel ways of treating and preventing diseases. Nearly half (44 per cent) of top 50 global biopharma companies are involved in RNA work through their own pipelines, M&A, or strategic alliances, based on GlobalData research. Venture capital has also invested $3 billion into RNA-based therapies in 2020 alone, according to Nature.

While RNA therapeutics hold tremendous potential to impact human health, the R&D tools to create, test, and develop these molecules have been severely limited. Traditional chemistry tools cannot model the intricacies of RNA biology, while biology tools ignore the chemistry involved with RNA modifications altogether. As a result, there has not been a single software solution to date that addresses the combined biological and chemical nature of RNA therapeutics. Scientists have had to contend with manual, low-throughput, and disconnected software to manage their R&D work. Meanwhile, 82% of the pipeline of disclosed RNA and nucleotide therapeutics is in the research or preclinical stage of development.

EMBL-EBI training course. Credit: Jeff Dowling

27 January 2022