GreenLight Is a Growing Presence In RTP

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GreenLight Biosciences is on growth spurt in North Carolina.

The Medford, Massachusetts headquartered company, which uses RNA-based technology for agricultural and human health applications, will increase the size of its research and development operations in Research Triangle Park.

GreenLight said the expansion will add more than 60,000 square feet of greenhouse, laboratory, and office space to support its plant health pipeline. Occupancy of the greenhouse will begin in the first quarter of this year and increase growing capacity tenfold, according to the company.

Colorado potato beetle. -- Debbie Roos, NC State University
Colorado potato beetle. -- Debbie Roos, NC State University

“This additional capacity is a critical step in helping us capitalize on our solutions for agriculture to realize a food-secure future,” said Mark Singleton, GreenLight’s head of plant health at RTP. “The investment will help to keep us at the cutting edge of innovation and continue first-of-a-kind progress like we are currently seeing in our fungal program.”

Employment at the RTP location is expected to grow from about 44 employees to 60 by the end of this year. It houses bioinformatics, genomics, screening, and formulation operations that support both plant and human applications.

The company uses its cell-free RNA manufacturing platform, which is protected by numerous patents, to produce RNA for a variety of agricultural and human health purposes. The technology can build RNA strands that precisely target specific genes in plants, animals, or fungi, beneficially suppressing the activity of those genes. 

The company expects to have its first product, an RNA-based agent to control the Colorado potato beetle, registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year. A second product registration, for an agent to control parasitic varroa destructor mites, also is expected in 2022. The mites are a major cause of colony collapse disorder among honeybees that are essential to pollinate many food crops.

The products could lessen dependence on chemical pesticides, which can harm the environment and be limited in their effectiveness.

For human health, GreenLight is developing a messenger RNA (mRNA) manufacturing platform. Its lead vaccine programs, which are in the pre-clinical stage, include candidates for COVID-19 and influenza. Earlier-stage programs are under development to address other unmet needs such as sickle-cell disease.

GreenLight has announced that it expects to raise about $282 million to fund its operations by merging with Environmental Impact Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq:ENVI), a publicly traded special acquisition company. The transaction is expected to close soon.  

GreenLight, founded in 2008, has about 250 employees based mostly in Medford; Rochester, New York; and RTP. Its mission is to address some of the world’s biggest problems by delivering on the full potential of RNA for human health and agriculture.

Bryant Haskins, NCBiotech Writer
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