Touchlight set to break ground on world’s highest-capacity DNA manufacturing facility

By Jane Byrne contact

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Adam Gault
© GettyImages/Adam Gault

Related tags: plasmid DNA, synthetic DNA vector, Gene editing, mRNA

Touchlight, a synthetic DNA producer, says it has received the first phase of planning approval for breaking ground on its new research and manufacturing facility in Hampton, UK.

The project will include the repair and renovation of a key remaining part of the Morelands and Riverdale Buildings, a former Victorian water works on the River Thames.

The facility will house 11 new DNA production suites, bringing the total on site to 15 and more than tripling Touchlight’s London-based DNA manufacturing capacity.

Once operational in 2022, the biotech said the site will have the capacity to manufacture up to 1kg of GMP DNA per month. That will be more than any other single site worldwide, it noted.

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, a spokesperson for Touchlight told BioPharma-Reporter last month.

“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.”

The expansion is in direct response to the growing global demand for DNA, driven in particular by the advent of mRNA and DNA vaccines, alongside cell and gene therapies, said the tech firm.

Making DNA at speed

The company 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.

Its dbDNA is being used in mRNA, lentivirus, gene editing, DNA vaccines, AAV, and other applications.

And it claims 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.”

Fundraising, new hires 

In September, the biotech extended its fundraising round to an aggregate total of US$125m (£92m). The financing was led by Bridford Investments Limited and Novator Partners.

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. 

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