Tesla’s ‘side project’ building RNA microfactories for CureVac

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Zakokor)
(Image: Getty/Zakokor)

Related tags Tesla CureVac Microfactory mRNA vaccine COVID-19 Coronavirus

Elon Musk revealed the news on Twitter that Tesla was working with CureVac and ‘possibly others’ to produce RNA vaccines.

Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, announced that the company was working with the German vaccine maker in response to a question on Twitter regarding an RNA vaccine approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company, which is predominantly focused on electric vehicles but also works in the renewable energy space, is manufacturing the ‘microfactories’ for RNA out of its site in Prüm, Germany, through its Tesla Grohmann Automation unit.

Both Tesla and CureVac are named on a patent​ for a bioreactor specifically for RNA in vitro​ transcription that filed last year in June.

The description of the patented invention suggests that there is a ‘problem’ with current manufacturing devices and processes, which sees a ‘large degree’ of manual handling and the necessity of well-trained technical staff.

The design of the microfactory would save time, space, equipment, and personnel, the patent suggests.

In his tweets on the news, Musk confirmed that Tesla would potentially work with other companies in the same area.

CureVac’s prospect vaccine

Currently, CureVac is working to progress its potential vaccine for COVID-19. The company received approval to begin a Phase I clinical trial for its mRNA vaccine candidate, which will be conducted in Germany and Belgium.

There will be 168 healthy adults participating in the trial while the company also stated that it will be producing ‘large quantities’ of the potential vaccine as it looks to move forward.

CureVac noted that the chosen candidate had been selected based on the speed and capability for its large-scale manufacture, balanced against the immune response produced.

Two other companies with leading efforts to develop a vaccine are also working with mRNA vaccines, with Moderna entering Phase III studies​ and Pfizer, alongside BioNTech, also announcing positive results from a Phase I trial​.

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