Houston Methodist COVID-19 Research

GeneOne Life Science and Houston Methodist to develop a COVID-19 vaccine


Tuesday, March 17, 2020 - Houston Methodist researchers are partnering with GeneOne Life Science Inc. to develop an RNA vaccine against COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic. Houston Methodist developed an RNA therapeutics research program to design, manufacture and test clinical-grade RNA.   GeneOne, based in Seoul, South Korea, established its Texas-based manufacturing subsidiary VGXI to build expertise in generating pre-clinical through Current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP)-grade DNA plasmids for vaccines, gene therapies and viral vector production. VGXI, GeneOne’s fully owned subsidiary located in The Woodlands, Texas, has a pre-existing exclusive license with Houston Methodist to develop large-batch RNA manufacturing capacity. Together, the group will generate and test an RNA vaccine against COVID-19.


The Houston Methodist RNA therapeutics research program is led by John Cooke, MD, PhD, Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter and Carole Walter Looke Presidential Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Disease Research and professor of Cardiovascular Sciences, and Roman Sukhovershin, MD, PhD, scientific director and assistant research professor of Cardiovascular Sciences. The program designs and generates RNA constructs for the scientific and medical communities in the Texas Medical Center in Houston and across the world. In addition to manufacturing non-GMP and cGMP RNA, scientists in Houston Methodist’s RNA therapeutics research program develop technologies to improve the stability and enhance the delivery of RNA products. They also have the facilities to support testing of RNA products in pre-clinical models, as well as a first-in-man clinical trials unit.


This partnership will leverage the expertise of GeneOne in generating DNA therapeutics and its experience in developing vaccines against coronaviruses to rapidly generate and assess the efficacy of an RNA vaccine against COVID-19.


“RNA vaccines are a new class of therapeutics that are particularly promising for a rapid response to a pandemic,” said Cooke. “We are fortunate to have GeneOne and VGXI as partners in this effort to combat COVID-19.” 


GeneOne President and CEO Young K. Park added, “The partnership between Houston Methodist and GeneOne will drive development of this innovative RNA vaccine platform against COVID-19.”


The RNA therapeutics research program at Houston Methodist began as a core group for the Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and is now also supported by the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas to further the development of cutting-edge RNA technologies for cancer. Funding from GeneOne has permitted the program to expand into vaccines. For more information, visit Houston Methodist's RNA Core