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Sasol’s ISOCARB 16 plays major role in COVID-19 vaccines

Sasol is providing a critical chemical building block for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are being used around the world.

The first COVID-19 vaccines on the market use a breakthrough mechanism known as messenger RNA (mRNA) to essentially “teach” the body how to protect against the disease. The new mRNA vaccines give cells instructions to make a protein found on the surface of the COVID-19 virus, which triggers the immune system to begin making antibodies in response. When a vaccinated person is later exposed to the virus, the body has already learned how to protect against infection. This is a different approach than the one used by traditional vaccines, which deliver a weakened or inactive virus to create an immune response.

Sasol’s ISOCARB 16 – a Guerbet acid derived from the company’s ISOFOL 16 alcohol – is a key ingredient in a unique lipid nanoparticle that creates a fatty layer of protection for the vaccine’s active component, allowing it to safely make its journey into the body’s cells.

mRNA is fragile and needs help surviving its trek from the injection site to individual cells. The lipid nanoparticle (LNP), created from ISOCARB 16 and other chemicals, surrounds the mRNA and acts as a “bodyguard” to protect against enzymes that would otherwise destroy it or degrade its effectiveness. After safely escorting the mRNA to its destination, the LNP then helps it pass through the membrane into the host cell, where it can begin its work.

Dr. Katharina Goroll

“This is a perfect example of Sasol fulfilling its purpose of ‘innovating for a better world,’” said Dr. Katharina Goroll, manager for Sales Development in the Performance Solutions business segment. “Our ISOCARB acids have long been used as raw materials and intermediates in a wide range of specialized applications, including cosmetics and personal care products. It’s gratifying to see ISOCARB 16 being used to create these critical lipid nanoparticles for use in COVID-19 vaccines. We should all be proud that a Sasol product is playing a key role in fighting the global pandemic.

“The marketing and sale of ISOCARB 16 is a joint effort between two of Sasol Chemicals’ new customer-facing business segments – Performance Solutions and Essential Care Chemicals,” added Goroll. “It’s a great example of collaboration and teamwork.”

Sasol manufactures the building blocks of ISOCARB 16 at our facility in Brunsbüttel, Germany. The final product is shipped to Sasol customers, who use it to create one of the lipids which form the LNPs, and then distribute them to the vaccine manufacturers.

While mRNA vaccines are new to the market, medical researchers have been studying the technology for years, primarily for use in attacking cancer cells. One benefit of the mRNA delivery system is that it can be used to develop vaccines far more quickly – using materials that are readily available to laboratories and medical manufacturers – than through traditional methods, which require large amounts of the actual virus and long development times.

As researchers develop new vaccines and therapeutics using mRNA technology in the fights against other viral and chronic diseases, the market for Sasol’s ISOCARB 16 should continue to grow.

Click here to order a sample or access the technical and safety data sheets.

Contact Katharina directly: ISOFOL@sasol.com