Pfizer bolsters mRNA through deals with Acuitas, Codex, and Beam

Pfizer has signaled its intention of taking mRNA beyond COVID-19 through a triad of deals announced on the first day of JP Morgan’s annual healthcare conference.

Pfizer has already seen major messenger RNA (mRNA) success with BioNTech and their respective COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2 (Comirnaty). Now, the firm has announced its plans at JP Morgan’s healthcare conference to become an mRNA powerhouse through a triumvirate of deals.

The deals, described below, see Pfizer team up with Acuitas Therapeutics, Codex DNA, and Beam Therapeutics.

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While CEO of Pizer, Albert Bourla told stakeholders at the JP Morgan conference “mRNA is not the holy grail [and] not everything will happen because of mRNA,” he said the firm truly believes “that mRNA is a game changer technology […]and we have seen that [just by] scratching the surface of it.”

Bourla continued, saying that Pfizer has developed the expertise and infrastructure to continue its mRNA journey and become a leading player.

“We analyze all the landscape and where we can go, and we did some moves, which are part of the strategic puzzle that we have built, this is not the only [deals] others will come.”

Pfizer told BioProcess Insider its mRNA strategy can be split into four focus areas and it is “continuing to further bolster the pipeline as we continue to look externally for strong scientific partners.” The four areas are:

  1. To continually invest in research regarding its COVID-19 vaccine to ensure protection for patients against different variants of Coronavirus.
  2. To keep building its infectious disease mRNA-based vaccine pipeline.
  3. To expand its current mRNA research into different therapeutic areas, including rare disease and oncology.
  4. To follow the science and fund mRNA research in areas of need.

The deals

Announced in the first few hours of the conference, Pfizer said it has access on a non-exclusive basis to Acuitas’ lipid nanoparticle (LNP) delivery system to develop up to ten targets for potential mRNA vaccines or therapeutics.

LNP’s are used to protect and transport mRNA to the correct place in cells and Acuitas’ LNP technology is already being used in Comirnaty. No financial details have been disclosed.

In its second deal, of which financial terms again have not been disclosed, Pfizer has entered into a multi-year research collaboration and licensing agreement with Codex.

Like the deal with Acuitas, Pfizer will use Codex’s novel synthetic DNA technology to research and develop mRNA vaccines and other therapeutics.

Thirdly, the company has signed a four-year gene-editing research deal with Beam. The partnership will combine Pfizer’s programs that use mRNA, LNPs, and gene therapy with Beam’s base editing and mRNA/LNP delivery systems.

Beam will receive an upfront payment of $300 million from the pharma giant, and according to Pfizer the deal expands its mRNA efforts beyond vaccines by targeting potential therapies for rare genetic diseases of the central nervous system, liver, and muscle.

The three deals Pfizer and BioNTech entered their third mRNA collaboration to develop an improved vaccine for shingles using their respective technologies.

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