Touchlight extends funding round, sees hike in demand for synthetic DNA vectors

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/janiecbros
© GettyImages/janiecbros

Related tags plasmid DNA synthetic DNA vector mRNA AAV lentivirus

Synthetic DNA vector producer, Touchlight, has announced the extension of its fundraising round to a current aggregate total of US$125m (£92m). The financing was led by Bridford Investments Limited and Novator Partners.

Demand for its dbDNA has grown rapidly in the last year, said the UK biotech, driven by its use in mRNA, lentivirus, gene editing, DNA vaccines, AAV, and other applications.

Touchlight claims its ‘doggybone’ or dbDNA synthetic vector, and its enzymatic production, enable it to make DNA at the speed, scale and purity necessary to support the rapid growth of genetic medicines.

And the company believes its synthetic DNA vector is superior to traditional plasmid DNA.

“The enzymatic manufacturing process for dbDNA offers multiple advantages over traditional plasmid DNA (pDNA), which is currently a key component of mRNA vaccines and gene therapies. GMP dbDNA can be produced more rapidly than pDNA (weeks versus months) and is manufactured using benchtop equipment with a significantly smaller physical and carbon footprint, making it simple and rapid to scale up as well as highly portable and amenable to technology transfer. dbDNA vectors contain no antibiotic resistance genes – a topic of increasing regulatory scrutiny.”

Manufacturing capacity expansion

Bridford and Novator will support the company through investments in additional manufacturing capacity, R&D, and growth initiatives, and by leveraging their healthcare expertise.

The UK biotech is primarily extending its existing capacity in Hampton, UK, where it will add 11 new state-of-the-art DNA production suites to have a total of 15.

A spokesperson for Touchlight told BioPharma-Reporter that the benchtop scale of the technology means the total facility footprint will occupy only a fraction of the space required by conventional bioreactor-based plasmid DNA manufacture.

“The new facility’s footprint is only 777m2, with the suite fit-out only being six months, illustrating the speed and simplicity with which we can add capacity with our technology as compared to fermentation-based processes.”

Touchlight is on a recruitment drive as well with it aiming to increase its headcount to more than 125 employees by the end of this year.

An alternative for pDNA

It sees further growth opportunities being generated for dbDNA across viral vectors, cell therapy, along with mRNA and DNA vaccines.

dbDNA can be used as a substitute for pDNA in lentivirus production by transient transfection, requiring less DNA material for at least equivalent infectious titers.

The synthetic DNA vector can also be used instead of pDNA in AAV production by transient transfection, as it typically requires less DNA material for equivalent infectious titers, while also eliminating packaging of bacterial sequences, according to the biotech

dbDNA is also “compatible with a wide range of gene delivery technologies and shows equivalent efficacy to plasmid DNA with a lower dose.”

And Touchlight said the vector can be used as a high-purity linear reagent for genome editing applications, including as a homology directed repair (HDR) template for ex vivo cell therapy and to deliver transposons.

Moreover, according to the biotech, the synthetic vector is an optimal template for mRNA production via in vitro transcription (IVT). “Our platform enables rapid, scalable development and GMP production without the need for a Master Cell Bank, and a reduced quantity of DNA is required for equivalent yields.”

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