Tesla‘s founder Elon Musk states that Tesla’s factory in Germany will start manufacturing something described as a kind of “molecular printer.” It will be a machine that could be used to produce new messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) molecules that are part of different types of drugs, for example, a vaccine against COVID-19.
It is a portable, automated mRNA production unit developed by the German pharmaceutical company CureVac. Elon Musk, who is participating in the project, describes this as “RNA microfactories” on Twitter. They are being designed to be shipped to remote locations, where they could produce the vaccine candidate and other mRNA-based therapies, against infectious diseases, including its vaccine candidate CVnCoV aimed at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections.
However, for immediate use in the pandemic – if the vaccine candidate gains market approval – the company has production sites with regulatory approval in Germany with the capacity to produce appropriate quantities of drug doses immediately.
CureVac, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a pioneer in the so-called messenger RNA approach. Ribonucleic acid molecules (RNA) can be produced in a biochemical process that does not require genetically modified living cells. The RNA vaccines cause the body’s own cells to place specific protein molecules from pathogens on their cell surface and thus make them accessible to the immune system. This avoids the classic method of vaccination with weakened or killed pathogens. CureVac has been working on these methods for years, which should not only be used against coronaviruses but also Lassa fever, rabies, and yellow fever.
Tesla’s boss Elon Musk announced that these so-called molecule printers are being built by Grohmann Automation in Germany. Tesla Grohmann and CureVac filed a patent for RNA microfactories in 2019, more precisely for a bioreactor for the in vitro transcription of RNA.
CureVac has so far not commented on Musk’s information that Tesla should start producing their portable mRNA production unit.