As Pfizer builds a whole franchise of genetic products on the cornerstone of its mRNA Covid-19 vaccine, it’s testing out a new way to manufacture them.
Touchlight, which has been netting deals in the ever-expanding and competitive DNA manufacturing space, has inked a non-exclusive patent license agreement with Pfizer. The deal gives Pfizer rights to Touchlight’s enzymatic DNA, called doggybone DNA, or dbDNA, to manufacture and commercialize mRNA-based vaccines and therapeutics as well as DNA vaccines and gene therapies.
Touchlight will receive an upfront payment, as well as clinical and commercial milestone payments and royalties upon commercialization. However, no hard figures or other financial details were disclosed to Endpoints News.
CEO Karen Fallen said in an interview with Endpoints that the deal with Pfizer is in response to the rise in popularity of RNA vaccines during the pandemic. Touchlight has been in contact with players in the RNA field including Pfizer but cannot disclose when negotiations exactly kicked off.
Whereas plasmid DNA is typically manufactured in bacterial cells, Touchlight said its dbDNA platform is different from the rest of the market in that it uses enzymes to amplify a circular DNA template, allowing the company to quickly — and in a small footprint — manufacture a large Quantity of GMP dbDNA vectors comparable to the standard plasmid DNA. In the making of mRNA vaccines, the dbDNA would serve as starting material.
“It’s great to have our technology used by some of the Big Pharmas, so it’s a really nice deal for Touchlight,” Fallen said.
Pfizer will eventually manufacture doggybone DNA in their facilities for their use but where, when and how it will be applied has also not been disclosed.
Touchlight, which currently has GMP manufacturing suites up and running at its facility in London, will expand its facility and put an extra 11 manufacturing facilities in place, which should be live in Q4 of this year, but no further details were provided.
For Touchlight, the company has been on the move over the past year. In 2021, the company received an extension of a $60 million funding round which brought their total fundraising round to a total of $125 million.
Tommy Duncan, Touchlight’s chief business officer, said that this financing was a massive drive forward for the company. The company was able to expand across the mRNA market, as well as several emerging markets, including gene editing, DNA vaccines and non-viral gene therapy.
The company was also able to secure a contract with Versameb to provide its dbDNA for the company’s pipeline.
With the financing squared away, Duncan said the company has no immediate financing plans or no IPO at the moment and will focus on the broader genetic medicine space.