Months after big financing round, Touchlight signs supply agreement for Versameb's pipeline
A UK-based CDMO has landed a supply agreement with Versameb to provide its doggybone DNA for the company’s pipeline, including for its lead candidate to treat stress urinary incontinence.
Touchlight will supply Versameb with its enzymatic DNA as the biotech prepares to enter VMB-100 into Phase I clinical trials in the second half of this year. The deal will allow Versameb to utilize Touchlight’s dbDNA, also called doggybone DNA, for all future pipeline products.
dbDNA is a linear, double-stranded covalently closed DNA vector, that is adaptable for a number of genetic medicines, making it highly scalable. It eliminates bacterial sequences and can be produced quicker than other types of DNA. dbDNA offers a synthetic alternative to plasmid RNA, a key part of mRNA vaccines and therapies. It can take just five days to produce versus more typical manufacturing months, and has a smaller manufacturing footprint. That means it can be quickly scaled up and is highly transportable.
Touchlight supplies DNA as a starting material as well as an active pharmaceutical ingredient. Because its DNA is synthetic, CEO Karen Fallen said that it’s vital to the market, because the enzymatic manufacturing process can be completed in just five days, a huge shift from microbial and E. coli manufacturing.
“What you put in, you get out. It faithfully replicates what you get in, so we don’t have the same stability issues that you can have with E. coli,” she said in an interview with Endpoints News. “They decided to use us for not just their lead candidate, but all of the molecules in their pipeline, so very exciting for us.”
She added that Touchlight sees the move as solid validation of its technology.
In September, the company announced that it would nearly double its workforce both in the UK and North America from around 65 employees to 125 by the end of the year. That news followed its $125 million financing round in March, which led the company to build the capacity to triple the production of dbDNA. That will, the company hopes, set itself up to become the largest synthetic DNA manufacturer in the world.
“We are excited to be driving the necessary activities to take our lead asset to the clinic in the shortest possible timeframe,” Versameb CEO Klaas Zuideveld said in a statement. “Working with a company such as Touchlight and to utilize dbDNA as a starting material for the production of our mRNA therapeutics assures a production process which is innovative and gives a competitive advantage. The high stability, quality and speed offered by synthetic replication of DNA, the starting material for mRNA, plays a key role in the production of Versameb’s proprietary biologically optimized VERSagile mRNA pipeline.”
Toughlight is also working with Vanderbilt University and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — also known as DARPA — on DNA vaccine development for head and neck cancer and Covid-19, as well as synthetic DNA-based antibody research.