Touchlight and Vanderbilt University Medical Center collaborate on DARPA Pandemic Prevention Platform programme to develop synthetic DNA-based antibody to protect against emerging threats

July 28, 2021 08:00 UTC
  • Touchlight’s doggybone DNA™ to be used in Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) programme funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
  • For the first time, novel synthetic DNA combined with state-of-the-art delivery will be used to deliver neutralising antibody therapies and enable faster pandemic response
  • Touchlight recently raised £42 million ($58 million) to expand manufacturing capacity for its doggyboneDNA (dbDNA™), which enables faster, more reliable production and scale-up than incumbent plasmid DNA approach

HAMPTON, England--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Touchlight, the leading synthetic DNA manufacturer, is collaborating with the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center (VVC) at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as part of the DARPA P3 programme.

The collaboration will explore the use of synthetic dbDNA to deliver antibody-based prophylaxis against pandemic disease threats. The aim is to make such therapies available in a significantly shorter timeframe by avoiding the long and costly large-scale production requirements of both conventional antibody-based treatments and plasmid DNA manufacture. Unlike vaccines, prophylactic antibodies have an immediate neutralising effect against the virus and may be able to act as a vaccine alternative or supplement whilst immunity builds.

Touchlight will develop and test a panel of novel dbDNA designs that encode for anti-Zika antibodies identified by Vanderbilt with the goal of boosting expression of the antibody to therapeutic levels. The project will also investigate a variety of delivery mechanisms including electroporation and targeted nanoparticles. The combination of these two aspects is aimed to deliver an improved expression profile in patients that enables rapid onset of protective levels of antibody.

Touchlight’s unique synthetic DNA vector, brings multiple advantages over traditional plasmid DNA manufacture and other nucleic acid manufacturing techniques, including speed, reliability and scalability. Touchlight’s dbDNA platform could unlock the potential for prophylactic nucleic acid launched antibodies, where the demands on rapid scale up to protect a population are equal or greater than those of vaccines.

Sarah Moore, Director of Gene Therapy Research at Touchlight said: “Antibody treatments can be the key to a swift pandemic response, if they can provide a good level of protection at short notice, until vaccines are available. We believe that the use of dbDNA to generate antibodies in vivo has the potential to significantly accelerate the availability of such therapies.”

Robert Carnahan, Associate Director at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear that the most significant bottleneck to rapid antiviral antibody therapeutics is the speed and scaling of manufacturing and delivery. Nucleic acid-delivered antibodies are a vital need in our pandemic fighting arsenal to directly address this bottleneck. Touchlight dbDNA’s technology presents the possibility of addressing these pressing needs in therapeutic antibody manufacturing speed and scalability.”

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Notes to Editors

About Touchlight

Touchlight, based in London, UK, is the world’s leading manufacturer of synthetic DNA. The company is pioneering enzymatic DNA production to enable the revolution in genetic medicines, including DNA and mRNA vaccines and cell and gene therapies. Touchlight has developed a novel, synthetic DNA vector known as “doggybone” or dbDNA™.

dbDNA™ is a minimal, linear, covalently closed structure, that eliminates bacterial sequences. Touchlight’s revolutionary enzymatic production platform enables unprecedented speed, scale, and the ability to produce genes with a size and complexity that is impossible with current technologies.

Touchlight is enabling companies across the genetic medicine industry. The company provides contract development and manufacturing capabilities to produce dbDNA as a critical starting material and active pharmaceutical ingredient for use in advanced therapies.

For more information, please visit our website,, or connect with us on LinkedIn.

About Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and is one of the most comprehensive research, teaching and patient care health systems in the Southeastern U.S. The most heavily utilized quaternary, referral healthcare facility in the Mid-South, VUMC sees over 2.5 million patient visits per year in over 160 locations, discharging 66,000 inpatients and performing 67,000 surgical operations. The Medical Center is the largest non-governmental employer of Middle Tennessee citizens, with more than 30,000 staff, including nearly 3,000 physicians, advanced practice nurses and scientists appointed to the Vanderbilt University faculty. For more information and the latest news follow VUMC on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and in the VUMC Reporter.

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For more information please contact:
At Touchlight
Jonny Ohlson, Executive Chairman
Tommy Duncan, CBO
T: +44 20 8481 9200

At Instinctif Partners
Tim Watson / Agnes Stephens / Katie Duffell
T: +44 20 7457 2020

Source: Touchlight

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