An Engineered T7 RNA Polymerase for efficient co-transcriptional capping with reduced dsRNA byproducts in mRNA synthesis
Messenger RNA (mRNA) therapies have recently gained tremendous traction with the approval of mRNA vaccines for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, manufacturing challenges have complicated large scale mRNA production, which is necessary for the clinical viability of these therapies. Not only can the incorporation of the required 5-prime 7-methylguanosine cap analog be inefficient and costly, in vitro transcription (IVT) using wild-type T7 RNA polymerase generates undesirable double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) byproducts that elicit adverse host immune responses and are difficult to remove at large scale. To overcome these challenges, we have engineered a novel RNA polymerase, T7-68, that co-transcriptionally incorporates both di- and tri-nucleotide cap analogs with high efficiency, even at reduced cap analog concentrations. We also demonstrate that IVT products generated with T7-68 have reduced dsRNA content.