Recombinant proteins are proteins produced by genetic engineering. They are widely used, for example, in many biomedicines, cosmetics and cellular agriculture. The potential market for recombinant proteins covers more than €200 billion.
As of now, close to 70 per cent of all recombinant proteins are produced in mammalian cells, which is crucial for the proper function of these proteins. However, protein production in mammalian cells is associated with high culturing costs as well as challenges in scaling-up production.
MammalExpress, a new project led by the University of Helsinki researchers, aims to create a technology that increases the efficiency and reduces the cost of producing recombinant proteins in mammalian cells for all purposes.
– We have created proof-of-concept data showing that it is possible to go beyond the current “golden standard” in terms of protein expression yield, says Jaan-Olle Andressoo, Associate Professor in translational neuroscience and lead investigator in MammalExpress.
MammalExpress has done this by changing specific regulatory sequences in the DNA molecule which are used for protein production in mammalian cells. With this sequence change more protein is produced.
The overall aim of MammalExpress is to make recombinant proteins cheaper for customers and bring more revenue for the producers.
– We strive to create a technology, which is very easy to add to existing mammalian protein production systems throughout the industry. In the long run, we plan to make our technology a part of a standard protein-production pipeline in mammalian cells, says Andressoo.
Currently MammalExpress is working on identifying new genetic rules by creating and analyzing deep data to further improve vectors for protein production in mammalian cells.
– Our pipeline aims to be easily applicable as an addition to existing vectors and optimized production pipelines to enhance recombinant protein production, says Andressoo.
MammalExpress has already received €626,000 Research to Business funding from Business Finland for the duration of 2022–2024.
The next steps for MammalExpress consist of developing new, improved regulatory sequences that can be utilized in mammalian cells to optimize protein production. Simultaneously, MammalExpress is working with an industry partner to test its first proof-of-concept 3’UTRs in an industrial setting. The aim is to have a spinout company up and running by around 2024.
– One thing is certain – society’s need for recombinant proteins produced in mammalian cells will only increase across multiple sectors of industry in the future. We aim to capture a strategically important niche in the protein production technology sector and enter these markets one by one, says Rashad Ismayilzada, Head of Commercialization at MammalExpress.
Recombinant proteins produced in mammalian cells are usually very expensive. This limits broad applications and development of new technologies in research, biomedicine, cosmetics, cellular agriculture, etc. The current market size is approximately €200 billion and is growing fast.
MammalExpress creates a technology which is easy to add to the existing production pipelines throughout the industry to increase the protein yield without adding extra costs. Our solution consists of optimized regulatory DNA sequences.
We first offer our solution to industry which produces currently expensive best-selling proteins. Our first approach is technology licensing.
MammalExpress consists of University of Helsinki researchers, commercialisation lead and a steering committee, all with strong technology transfer and implementation experience.
We are looking for partners among protein production and biotech firms. We welcome business angels and venture capital firms to discuss future investments, as well as knowledge they can bring to the table in our field.