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2023-09-29| Partnerships

Ginkgo Bioworks and Pfizer Forge $331 Million Collaboration for RNA-Based Drug Discovery

by Richard Chau
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On September 27, Boston-based Ginkgo Bioworks disclosed a groundbreaking collaboration with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, signaling a strategic foray into the promising realm of RNA-based drug discovery. This collaboration represents a concerted effort to harness Ginkgo’s cutting-edge RNA technology in the pursuit of novel therapeutic solutions.

Related article: Pfizer Partners with Renowned Life Sciences VC to Build Pipeline Projected to be Worth $7 Billion 

Pfizer’s Strategic Utilization of Ginkgo’s RNA Technology

In this synergistic partnership, Pfizer is set to leverage Ginkgo’s proprietary RNA technology to propel the identification and development of innovative RNA molecules. These molecules will be tailored to address crucial research areas, marking a significant stride in Pfizer’s commitment to scientific advancement. 

Although the Ginkgo-Pfizer duo has yet to disclose many specifics about the deal, according to their press releases, Pfizer is set to make substantial investments in this landmark collaboration, including an undisclosed upfront payment, research fees, and potential development and commercial milestone payments, totaling an impressive $331 million across three key programs. Also, Ginkgo has the right to receive royalties on eventual sales, which may result in further downstream value.

RNA therapeutics, with the ability to encode proteins for treating and potentially curing diseases, stand as a revolutionary approach in the medical landscape. Ginkgo’s RNA technology, characterized by high-throughput screening and a multi-parameter design framework, aims to identify optimal natural and synthetic elements. These elements are crucial for efficient production, circularization, stability, and translation of RNA constructs—a pivotal step toward realizing the full potential of RNA-based treatments.

Pioneering the Future of Medicinal Innovation

Commenting on the collaboration, Dr. Will Somers, Head of Biomedicine Design at Pfizer, expressed enthusiasm about the pivotal role RNA therapeutics play in scientific innovation, anticipating to benefit patients worldwide by creating novel RNA treatments with progress in synthetic biology. “Access to Ginkgo’s proprietary platform will help enable Pfizer to search for novel and exciting RNA constructs with improved stability and expression that could lead to more effective treatments,” said Dr. Somers.

Jason Kelly, CEO and co-founder of Ginkgo Bioworks, emphasized the transformative impact of their approach, foreseeing the era of programmable medicines. With billions of patients benefiting from RNA technologies, this collaboration promises to be a cornerstone in the evolution of therapeutic solutions. “Ginkgo’s approach enables and accelerates discovery across different disease areas and modalities for our partners, who bring deep expertise in drug development.”

In summary, the collaboration between Ginkgo Bioworks and Pfizer signifies a paradigm shift in drug discovery, capitalizing on the immense potential of RNA therapeutics. The substantial financial commitment underscores the confidence both entities place in the success of this venture. As they embark on this scientific journey, the broader medical community eagerly anticipates the tangible outcomes that may redefine the landscape of treatment modalities and improve patient outcomes on a global scale.

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