My name is Katie Groeger and I graduated from Corning East High School in 2012. After getting my BS in Chemical Engineering from RPI, I came to Boston to work in the biotechnology field where I now work as a Pathway Engineering Research Associate. My company, GreenLight Biosciences, researches and manufactures RNA for uses in the agricultural and medical sectors. Even before the current pandemic began, GreenLight was researching the use of messenger RNA in the production of vaccines. Manufacturing and delivery of quality RNA for vaccines and antibodies has historically been an issue to unlocking the potential of the nucleic acid to control the synthesis of proteins. The purpose of using the mRNA is to enable fast, scalable, robust and cost-efficient production of mRNA vaccines and antibody therapies. Ideally, this would make it possible to respond to an infectious disease (from discovery to vaccine production) in a 12-18-month time frame which is significantly shorten than that of traditional vaccines approaches.
A current worry with the worldwide effort to make a vaccine for COVID-19 is that even once we have a working vaccine, will it be able to be mass produced fast enough while maintaining its efficacy? One of the hardest parts of making a new product is scaling it from a research scale (~50-200 microliters) to production scale (depending on the product, this could be millions of gallons+). Our hope is that our platform will be useful in taking a finished vaccine to production quickly and effectively.
Given the world’s current state, this has been no small task. I'm sure many of you have been experiencing difficulty in getting certain products, longer than usual shipping times, and the idea of coming in contact with someone outside your house may now give you more anxiety than you ever imagined. These problems are very real in industry as well. A lot of reagents we need may be backordered because the facility making them has been temporarily closed. A large number of my coworkers are also work from home for the foreseeable future and the number of employees in the lab spaces at a given time is a strictly enforced to ensure we have the ability to stay away from one another. Any of these factors can make an experiment date be moved, effecting productivity. These are issues that just need our understanding and flexibility to overcome.
While these past months has been very challenging, I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Please know that many of us around the globe are working on trying to make a healthier and safer world for all of us to return to.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge Doc Loomis who was my Chemistry teacher my sophomore and senior years for getting me interested in his subject and essentially shaping the world I now surround myself with every day. Thank you, Doc!