Colchester mRNA lab putting local college grads to work

An ingredient that helps bodies fight infection is made in a Vermont lab.
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:05 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2022 at 8:00 AM EDT
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COLCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - A component found in cells that helps our bodies fight infection is being made in a Vermont lab.

Messenger RNA, or mRNA, has been used during the pandemic to develop vaccines that fight the coronavirus. Vernal Biosciences in Colchester helps make mRNA, which acts as a kind of roadmap a cell uses to make a specific protein.

“There was a need for kind of full-service outsourcing services for mRNA manufacturing,” said Christian Cobough, the founder of Vernal Biosciences.

The company manufactures mRNA for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, researchers in academia or medical settings that can help make the coronavirus vaccine, gene editing or support cancer research.

“We manufacture the mRNA to the specifications and to the amount that they need,” said Cobough.

Right now, the company turns out about three to five grams of mRNA in a year. That’s a small amount, but it’s important to remember that orders are typically in milligrams and mRNA is minuscule. The goal is to be turning out 50 grams a year starting in 2023.

There are 12 employees and the goal is to hire up to 25 by the end of 2022. To help, Cobough is employing recent Vermont graduates, like Lynda Menard and Noah Prugar.

“I think the team actually is pretty excited when they are working here. It’s a day-to-day things change for them, too,” said Menard.

“I think it’s just really exciting to be a part of that and like I said, just grow with the company,” said Prugar.

mRNA company keeps college grads in Vermont

Cobough says local universities have been great for growth and offer homegrown talent that already knows the area.

“Super and excited and focused on hiring people from the local ecosystems,” said Cobough. “UVM, the state university system, students that are returning after graduating from colleges out of the state, people who went to college here and want to return; there is a real draw that this state has. We are actively, actively recruiting.”

Cobough wants to hire up to 60 employees by the end of 2023.

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