UK-based CDMO Touchlight has teamed up with the University of Liverpool, UK, to utilise its doggybone DNA (dbDNA) technology in for developing a personalised DNA vaccine for patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which will be assessed in a clinical trial.  

Touchlight’s dbDNA is a small, closed loop of DNA that is made in a lab using enzymes. This technique can speed up the drug development process by amplifying long and complex DNA sequences without traditional methods like bacterial fermentation.  

The term doggybone DNA refers to the structure of the synthesised DNA molecule, which resembles a bone with two loops at each end. The approach offers a way to make vaccines very quickly, especially for personalised treatments. In March 2023, Touchlight received a £14m ($17.7m) grant from the UK government for commercial scale manufacturing of the technology. 

A team at the University of Liverpool will use Touchlight’s dbDNA technology to develop a fully personalised therapeutic neoantigen DNA vaccine for NSCLC patients. Neoantigens are naturally occurring proteins found on the surface of cancer cells that train the immune system to recognise and fight abnormal lung cells.  

Funded by the UK’s Medical Research Council, the Phase I trial will accrue 10 patients at the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. The first patients are expected to be enrolled in the second half of 2024.  

NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, affecting the cells that line the lungs. It differs from small cell lung cancer in cell size and appearance under a microscope. In the eight major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, Japan, and urban China), the number of NSCLC cases is expected to reach 1,463,151 in 2032, according to GlobalData. 

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This partnership adds to other recent developments involving the development of vaccines for treating lung cancer. In March, Cancer Research UK and the CRIS [Cancer Research Innovation in Science] Cancer Foundation awarded a £1.7m ($2.1m) grant to researchers at the University of Oxford, the Francis Crick Institute and University College London to develop LungVax, a neoantigen DNA vaccine for lung cancer patients.