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New ‘spin freezing’ technique could enhance future mRNA vaccines

  • Ghent University scientists launch CEPI-funded project ‘spin-freezing’ vaccines
  • The technique could remove the need for frozen storage of mRNA vaccines
  • It could also support rapid scale-up of vaccines during future disease outbreaks through continuous vaccine production

11 March 2024, OSLO, Norway and GHENT, Belgium – A top-ranking public research university in Belgium has received funding from CEPI to explore whether a pioneering vaccine stabilisation technique could end the need for frozen storage of mRNA vaccines and support a fast and scaled-up response to future outbreaks in as little as 100 days.

Ghent University will receive up to US $1.9 million to test the performance of optimised mRNA vaccines, developed on the university’s specialised mRNA Galsomes platform, in preclinical models after ‘spin-freezing’ the vaccines. Pioneered by RheaVita, a spin-off company of Ghent University, spin-freezing is a novel alternative to the traditional freeze-drying method. The research will be supported by Flanders Institute for Biotechnology (VIB).

Spin-freezing: the next vaccine-drying frontier?
In freeze-drying, certain types of vaccines and other products including diagnostics, therapeutics as well as certain foods, are dehydrated and temporarily stored as a powder at heat-stable temperatures to inhibit spoilage, extend shelf life and increase access to these products in remote or low-resource settings (as the products no longer require frozen storage).

The new technique, spin-freezing, could offer additional benefits to the traditional freeze-drying method and therefore has the potential to become a preferred technique for vaccine makers.

Spin-freezing works by rapidly rotating vials of vaccine along an axis while the flow of an inert and cold gas solidifies the vaccine into a thin powder film around the side of the vial. This allows for a much faster drying process and offers manufacturers more control of the process, which can help improve the quality of vaccines being produced.

Vaccine producers can also spin-freeze vaccines continuously, vial by vial, thereby reducing expensive and time-consuming bottlenecks and delays that can commonly occur during traditional freeze-drying where vaccines are manufactured in batches. While batch manufacturing has long been the industry standard, continuous manufacturing could offer improved efficiency, with raw materials constantly fed into the production line and collected at the end which could help bring vaccines to market more quickly.
It could also reduce labour and waste to help with cost savings.