From Bio Journal - October 2022

Expanding patent disputes over Covid-19 vaccines

Moderna, Inc. initiated legal action against Biontech and Pfizer on August 26, alleging patent infringement on hard-to-degrade mRNA, one of the key technologies in mRNA vaccines. The lawsuits were filed against Pfizer in the Massachusetts State Court and against Biontech in the Dusseldorf District Court. The hard-to-degrade mRNA and the lipid nanoparticles that encapsulate it play crucial roles in Covid-19 vaccines, and patent disputes have been raging over the two technologies. Since February 28, Moderna, Inc. is also being sued by Arbutas and Genevant over lipid nanoparticles (see BJ May 2022).

Conflicts are likely to continue to arise over these two technologies because the basic patent for the hard-to-degrade mRNA is held by the University of Pennsylvania and the basic patent for lipid nanoparticles is held by the University of British Columbia in Canada, both of which are subject to complex licensing via various companies, which is the main cause of these disputes.

Vaccine R&D base selected

On August 26, the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) announced the location of the center for vaccine research and development in Japan. The University of Tokyo (New Generation Infectious Disease Center) was selected as the flagship university. In addition, Hokkaido University, Chiba University, Osaka University and Nagasaki University were selected as "synergy centers" to provide cooperation to enhance R&D effects. These four universities are expected to play the role of centers for vaccine R&D for new infectious diseases.

Cultured meat developed from edible blood serum

At the 4th Cellular Agriculture Conference, Professor Shoji Takeuchi at the Graduate School of the University of Tokyo, described the food sampling event he held with Nissin Food Products on March 31 this year. Prof. Takeuchi reported that food serum and food plasma gel were developed by an original method and that the cultured meat was made only from edible materials.

Professor Tatsuya Shimizu of Tokyo Women's Medical University described a circulatory cell culture system using algae as an alternative to conventional cell culture methods. Professor Chihiro Akazawa of Juntendo University reported on technology to produce cells of cultured meat using iPS cells, stem cells, and others. In addition, Professor Michiya Matsusaki of Osaka University reported on the production of three-dimensional structures using a 3D printer.

Regional Fish to construct mammoth fish-farming plant

Regional Fish Co., Ltd., which markets genome-edited fish, announced on September 6 that it had raised 2.04 billion yen in its second round of funding. The company announced that it will use the funds to build a massive plant in Japan with more than 10,000 square meters of production, providing about 20 times the current output, and to expand its business to Indonesia, a major fishing nation. In combination with this the company also indicated its stance of tackling a variety of improvements and smart fish farming through genome editing. Funding companies include Okumura-gumi, Iwatani Sangyo and NTT, which are developing a new aquaculture system jointly with Regional Fish, and Food & Life Companies Inc., whose members include Sushiro, with which Regional Fish is jointly developing genome-edited fish for sushi use.

The construction of the biofloc aquaculture system and genome-editing breeding, now being pushed forward by Regional Fish, are likely to be the main pillars of the company's large-scale plant construction and the overseas business development. Currently, fish that can be farmed by the biofloc aquaculture system are tilapia and vanamei (whiteleg shrimp), and the company is expected to move forward with cultivation of these two fish species in Indonesia. (Regional Fish Co., Ltd. 2022/9/5)

Euglena Co., Ltd. develops genome-edited euglena

Euglena Co., Ltd., a venture company launched at the University of Tokyo, has developed a non-swimming euglena using genome editing technology in collaboration, among others, with research teams from the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN) Cluster for Science, Technology and Innovation Hub (RCSTI) and the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science. A gene in euglena that is involved in the formation of flagella, which are necessary for movement, is disrupted by genome editing. It is said that this enables the collection and production efficiency of euglena to be improved. As euglena is a microalgae capable of photosynthesis, efforts for decarbonization are being made by increasing its ability to absorb carbon dioxide. Euglena can also be used as a biofuel and, as it is rich in nutrients, for food, which are the reasons why these efforts are being made. (Euglena Co. Ltd. 2022/9/9)

Symbiobe Co. Ltd. initiates serious development of photosynthetic marine bacteria

Symbiobe, a venture company launched by Kyoto University, is working on similar research to Euglena to fix carbon dioxide and nitrogen using photosynthetic marine bacteria and to develop applications for the material. The company announced that it had completed the procurement of 200 million yen by August 25. Competition in this field is heating up fast. (Nikkei Biotech 2022/8/25)

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(English Index)