American biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks has announced a collaboration agreement with Pfizer to discover and develop new RNA molecules across priority research areas.

Under the partnership, Pfizer will use Ginkgo’s patented RNA technology to discover RNA-based drug candidates.

In return, Ginkgo will receive a one-time payment in addition to being eligible for research fees, development milestone payments, and commercial milestone payments totalling $331m across three programmes.

Additionally, the biotech firm is entitled to potential future downstream value in the form of sales royalties.

Pfizer Biomedicine Design head Will Somers said: “RNA therapeutics are proving to be an important platform to advance the world of scientific innovation, and with progress in synthetic biology we have the potential to create new RNA treatments that may benefit patients worldwide.

“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.”

Ginkgo’s RNA technology combines a multi-parameter design framework with high-throughput screening of how RNA constructions behave.

The technology helps to identify new natural and synthetic elements that are suitable for a given application.

The biotech company will use these tools to achieve efficient production, circularisation, improved stability, and enhanced translation of every RNA construct.

Ginkgo Bioworks CEO and co-founder Jason Kelly said: “We’re thrilled to be able to help enable the discovery and development of novel drugs using this powerful modality by applying our platform technologies, which are designed to program RNA for maximum therapeutic effect.

“Ginkgo’s approach enables and accelerates discovery across different disease areas and modalities for our partners, who bring deep expertise in drug development.

“We can’t wait to leverage our broad and deep RNA Codebase and deploy our Foundry to enable the era of programmable medicines with the Pfizer team.”

Last month, the firm announced a new partnership with Merck to improve biologic manufacturing processes.