GE Research Picks DNA Script to Join On-Demand Vaccine Production Collaboration


GE Research selected DNA Script to join a collaboration working on a rapid response, mobile platform to develop on-demand production of nucleic acid-based vaccines and therapies related to biological threats. The collaboration involves a $41 million, five-year award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Nucleic Acids On-Demand World-Wide (NOW) program. DNA Script is receiving up to $9.35 million of the award.

The goal is to develop a technology platform that can manufacture thousands of ready-to-use vaccine doses wherever needed in under three days. It will use DNA Script’s enzymatic DNA synthesis (EDS) platform to make high-fidelity nucleic acids with GE’s industrial-scale nucleic acid amplification production abilities.

They note that current, traditional chemical processes used to build nucleic acids require handling and ventilation of hazardous chemicals and environmental conditions that are problematic for rapid response mobile manufacturing. But DNA Script’s SYNTAX EDS system prints high-quality nucleic acids utilizing a benchtop machine that doesn’t require toxic solvents or special conditions.

“Having the ability to produce small batches of ready-to-use vaccines in a few days could prove transformative to beat back a pandemic and avoid the emergence of more dangerous variants,” said Thomas Ybert, chief executive officer of DNA Script. “We are excited to collaborate with GE to employ the speed, efficiency and ease-of-use of our EDS technology to create a manufacturing platform that will enable much faster production and deployment of vaccines and ensure a much faster response to potential biothreats.”

This effort is reminiscent of Elon Musk’s work with Germany’s CureVac NV to develop a vaccine bioprinter. Those two companies had begun working in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tesla filed a joint patent with CureVac for a “bioreactor for RNA.”

The printers are portable, automated messenger RNA (mRNA) production units, designed for use in remote locations. They would manufacture the vaccine candidate and other potential mRNA-based therapies using whatever recipe is programmed into them. The printers are being built at Tesla Grohmann Automation in Germany.

DARPA’s NOW program is managed by Amy Jenkins in the Biological Technologies Office. The goal of the program is to develop a rapid, mobile, medical manufacturing platform, which could crank out DNA and/or RNA-based vaccines and therapeutics that could be used by the military against biothreat attacks and emerging infectious diseases in addition to humanitarian operations. The idea is to be able to deploy vaccines and therapeutics, such as the mRNA vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, as well as others, in a matter of days instead of weeks or months.

DNA Script also recently inked a development contract with the French Defense Innovation Agency in liaison with the French Armament General Directorate (DGA) to develop a prototype for a mobile manufacturing platform for DNA primers and probes. These are essential components of assays to detect and diagnose pathogens. The joint project will use DNA Script’s SYNTAX platform to generate high-fidelity nucleic acids. DNA Script is receiving $1.6 million out of the deal.

Ybert said, “We are thrilled to collaborate with the French Ministry for Armed Forces on this important initiative to rapidly detect, characterize and mitigate threats from newly emerging or engineered pathogens. We believe that the speed, efficiency and ease of use of our SYNTAX nucleic acid printer and underlying enzymatic synthesis technology will be critical in addressing future pandemics.”

DNA Script was founded in 2014 in Paris. It is also based in South San Francisco.

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