Scaling up a new process to create synthetic DNA

CPI helped Touchlight to scale-up their cell-free dbDNA process, grow their business and secure £147m private investment.

Key points

Expanding production

Helping to expand Touchlight’s manufacturing footprint in the UK

Investment support

Helping secure £147m of private investment, which will allow creation of further jobs and research

The demand for high-quality DNA has grown considerably in recent years, as a critical starting material in advanced therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic has been one reason for this higher demand, with DNA being a vital part of coronavirus diagnostics and vaccine production.

Traditionally, DNA is manufactured using E.coli fermentation. This process requires intense monitoring, specialised expertise, and can take up to several months. There are also other limitations associated with safety and cost.

CPI first collaborated with Touchlight Genetics in 2017, beginning a long-term partnership to help scale-up its next-generation, cell-free DNA manufacturing method. This was part of a larger programme to establish a cell-free protein production platform using doggybone (db)DNATM. The CPI team worked with Touchlight Genetics to help establish a scalable and single-use closed loop system for the manufacture of DNA.

CPI worked alongside the Touchlight team to support the rapid and robust scale-up of the dbDNA process. They identified funding opportunities and collaboration partners that aligned with Touchlight’s technical and commercial goals and supported flexible access to our equipment and technical expertise. Working alongside Touchlight’s technical teams, the CPI team were able to practically evaluate the application of dbDNA in next-generation therapeutic products and provided an agnostic consultancy on technology choice and help in evaluating future potential applications of Touchlight’s technology.

The public health impacts of this project are far-reaching and will continue to inform further research on combatting serious illnesses and epidemics through the development of DNA and RNA vaccines.

CPI’s collaboration has also contributed to a significant economic impact. Touchlight Genetics has grown to more than 100 employees since its inception in 2007. In 2021, the company secured £147m of private investment, which will allow creation of further jobs and research in the biosynthetics field.

Dr Jill Makin, Chief Technology Officer, Touchlight Genetics said:

CPI has skillsets and equipment that are not readily available anywhere else. By using CPI’s skills, we have saved many months of process development.

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