Pfizer, MIT in 3-year collaboration focusing on biologics manufacturing

By Zachary Brennan

- Last updated on GMT

Pfizer and MIT will use synthetic biology to accelerate drug discovery
Pfizer and MIT will use synthetic biology to accelerate drug discovery

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Pfizer and MIT have announced a new three-year collaboration to advance biopharmaceutical discovery using synthetic biology. 

The collaboration “spans multiple therapeutic areas at Pfizer and involves several core investigators within the MIT Synthetic Biology Center​,” MIT spokesman Dan Darling told us. All financial terms are confidential.

Biologics based in recombinant DNA technology “have transformed the treatment of many diseases over the last few decades.  However, the bio-manufacturing process can be time-consuming and costly, and has remained largely unchanged since the earliest product approvals​,” Darling said.

The hope is that new technologies can help lower the cost of producing some of the most complex biologically based drugs.

This is not the first partnership between Pfizer and MIT, but it is the first focused on developing a better way to manufacture drugs.

MIT’s biomanufacturing program also recently won a $10m US Defense contract​. The funding will be for building a new prototype biologic manufacturing system in two years.

There is an opportunity to re-evaluate standard operations, identify areas for improvement, and develop methodologies that potentially may make the biopharmaceutical value chain more cost-efficient​,” Darling said.

The goal of the Pfizer-MIT partnership is to improve the efficiency with which researchers are able to produce specific proteins synthetically by using these new technologies, which utilize more genes in the process — around 40 or 50 — versus just one, according to other media reports​.

We believe we are reaching a key inflection point where advances in synthetic biology have the potential to rapidly accelerate and improve biotherapeutics drug discovery and development​,” Darling added. 

This includes early-stage candidate discovery through product supply, which could bring better, more effective therapies to patients more rapidly​.”

Doug Lauffenburger, head of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering, added: “This collaboration supports our goal to develop sophisticated synthetic biological systems from standardized, well-characterized modular parts for useful application in multiple fields, including biopharmaceutical molecular and bioprocess design​.”

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