Aston University and biotechnology company PolyTherics have recently teamed up to develop a new, simplified method of purifying therapeutic proteins and peptides for use in a wide range of biological drug treatments. Therapeutic proteins/peptides can be engineered in the laboratory for pharmaceutical use. The use of therapeutic proteins in the form of biotechnonological drugs has grown enormously in recent years and has revolutionized the treatment of many diseases. Today therapeutic proteins are being used to relieve patients suffering from conditions including Cancer, Diabetes, Heart Attacks, Strokes and Anaemia.
Unlike other medicines these drugs are not synthetically produced, but are usually produced through microbial fermentation or by cell culture. They are more difficult, time-consuming and expensive to produce than synthetic drugs. The innovative project between PolyTherics and Aston looks to address some of the challenges of producing these treatments by increasing the throughput of protein purification, so making production easier and cheaper.
Therapeutic proteins are one of the most important and rapidly growing segments of the pharmaceutical market, with the market for therapeutic proteins expected to grow to $160.1bn by 2013.
This project addresses a current bottleneck on research and industrial scale protein production, by removing the need for column chromatography. The majority of recombinant protein purification on the research scale now uses affinity purification (for which column chromatography is pre-requisite) and the approach is also used widely on a process scale (e.g. therapeutic antibody preparation). New downstream processing techniques, such as those proposed are of considerable value to biomanufacturers to provide higher throughput, ease of use and economy. Techniques are sought particularly to avoid end-user column packing and qualification.
If the project is successful in developing a generic, "two-shake" system which removes the need for column chromatography to purify proteins then the benefits for both partners will be significant. For PolyTherics production costs will be dramatically reduced due to quicker processing and continuous production. Labour and capital costs will also be reduced due to the removal of the need for column packing, which requires specialised equipment and is labour intensive.
For academics at Aston University and elsewhere, the ability to scale purification simply by using larger vessels, rather than requiring large-scale centrifugation or column chromatography would represent a significant advance in biochemical engineering. As a result there could be an explosion in productivity even at the laboratory research scale.
Dr Anna Hine, lead academic on the project said ‘We are very excited about this work. It will also have important impact on the research scale and so will benefit both universities and industry’.