Pfizer gets access to Touchlight's 'doggybone DNA' tech to make vaccines, gene therapies and more

Pfizer has turned itself into a household name amid the pandemic, but it's routinely looking at ways to improve on its operations. In one approach, the company is exploring next-gen "doggybone DNA" technology for manufacturing various products.

The pharma giant has inked a non-exclusive license agreement with biotech company Touchlight to utilize its enzymatic "doggybone DNA" (dbDNA) in the manufacturing process for mRNA vaccines, therapeutics, and gene therapies.

Under the deal, Touchlight will receive an upfront payment, plus clinical and commercial milestone payments and royalties upon potential commercialization. The companies didn't disclose the financial specifics of the deal.

Touchlight's patented dbDNA technology is “uniquely positioned” for the rapid manufacture of DNA for vaccines and therapeutics, the company says. The platform is a minimal, lineal, covalently closed structure that eliminates bacterial sequences, Touchlight adds. This enables “unprecedented” speed and scale in manufacturing, according to the biotech.

Last September, Touchlight scored $125 million in venture funding to boost manufacturing as it saw a demand spike for its dbDNA. The funding was used to expand the scale of its Hampton, U.K,  facility, allowing it to produce up to 1 kilogram of DNA per month.

At the time, the expansion was slated to be operational in the second quarter of 2022. The company also aimed to increase its scale from a team of 65 to more than 125 by the end of the year, including adding to its commercial and marketing teams in the U.K. and North America.

For its part, Pfizer is adding to its manufacturing repertoire after a massive supply chain expansion to support global COVID-19 vaccine demand. The company and partner BioNTech produced more than 3 billion doses of the vaccine and reaped more than $36 billion from the key pandemic countermeasure.