Policy & Regulation
Touchlight, Vanderbilt University Medical Center Collaborate on DARPA Pandemic Prevention Platform Programme
29 July 2021 - - UK-based synthetic DNA manufacturer Touchlight is collaborating with the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as part of the DARPA P3 programme, the company said.

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 said its 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.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a US academic medical center and is one of the most comprehensive research, teaching and patient care health systems in the Southeastern US.

The most heavily utilized quaternary, referral healthcare facility in the Mid-South, VUMC sees over 2.5m 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.