Pfizer invests in 4D Molecular Therapeutics, a maker of gene delivery vectors

Adeno-associated virus gene vector made using the company's Directed Vector Evolution platform--Courtesy of 4D Molecular Therapeutics

Pfizer ($PFE) announced earlier this month that it is financing the drug discovery efforts of four early-stage companies to the tune of a combined $46 million, including 4D Molecular Therapeutics, the maker of a platform for the delivery of gene vectors. In addition, the Big Pharma gained an option to exclusively license at least one adeno-associated virus for cardiac disease targets as a result of the transaction.

Using its Directed Vector Evolution platform, Emeryville, CA's, 4D Molecular Therapeutics says it can create a "library" of 100 million gene vectors and find the dozen or so most promising variants for a particular payload's delivery based on a selection process that's carried out over the course of a year. Then the normal version of the defective gene that is associated with the targeted disease is inserted into the vector, according to the company website.

The company says its vectors can facilitate gene uptake in a variety of organs including the eye, lung and brain, and aims to treat a plethora of conditions with the help of partners. In a release, Pfizer said the vectors can evade pre-existing antibodies that might otherwise neutralize the payload.

"There is exciting scientific discovery happening both within Pfizer and beyond our walls, and we look forward to continuing to explore opportunities to bring our resources to emerging companies investigating in areas where we feel we could make a difference for patients," said Dr. Mikael Dolsten, president of Pfizer Worldwide Research and Development, in a statement. "The key for Pfizer is to be flexible in how we partner with different companies; we use a range of investment vehicles and collaboration models in R&D to help ensure we tap into the vast, rapidly-evolving ecosystem of healthcare innovation, looking to complement each other's capabilities so that together we can make a bigger impact."

Pfizer also funded the discover efforts of immuno-oncology focused biopharma companies BioAtla and NextCure, and Cortexyme, a developer of treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other degenerative disorders.

- read the release