American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced a string of new deals Monday to expand and improve its use of mRNA technology, springboarding off the successes of its Covid-19 vaccine and including a $1.3 billion partnership with gene editing company Beam Therapeutics.
Pfizer will pay Beam $300 million to develop treatments for rare genetic diseases of the liver, muscle and central nervous system as part of the four-year deal, rising by more than $1 billion pending various research, regulatory and commercial milestones.
Pfizer will also collaborate with Canadian biotech Acuitas Therapeutics to license its lipid nanoparticle (LNP) technology, which is used to deliver its mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine into the body.
As part of the deal, the financial details of which were not disclosed, Pfizer has the option of licensing the technology for up to ten vaccines or therapies.
Pfizer will also partner with California-based Codex DNA, gaining access to the biotech’s synthetic genome technology with a view to applying it to the development of mRNA vaccines and other therapeutics.
The financial details of the deal with Codex, which include an upfront payment along with success-based milestone payments, were not disclosed.
Pfizer is investing heavily in the technology that enabled it, and its German partner BioNTech, to bring the first Covid-19 vaccine to market. The deals take a wide view as to what made the shot successful, covering both the fundamental genetic technology and the ways it is shuttled into the body—a combination of LNP and mRNA, which also features in the Moderna vaccine. These are not the first deals the company has made to further its mRNA offerings and it is already working on shingles and flu shots using the platform. Spurred on by the wild successes of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, the first to successfully use mRNA after decades of research, other vaccine makers are also injecting money into the field, including European heavyweights like Sanofi and GSK.
Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, said the company is “making significant investments to harness the power of the mRNA-LNP technology and deliver potential new breakthrough vaccines and therapeutics that address significant unmet needs for patients.”
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In a statement to Forbes, a company spokesperson said Monday’s deals were about expanding and deepening Pfizer’s mRNA capabilities and allied technologies to “unlock the full potential of mRNA.” The company is focusing its mRNA strategy on four key areas: continuing research into its Covid-19 vaccine; building its infectious disease mRNA vaccine pipeline; expanding mRNA research into new therapeutic areas including rare diseases and cancer; and investing in applying mRNA technology to other areas in need of innovation.