Optimising cell factories for the biotechnology industry
Using cells to manufacture chemicals allows the efficient and diverse chemistry capabilities of enzymes to be exploited. Industrial biomanufacturing is an important and lucrative sector of the biotechnology market, particularly for the manufacture of large therapeutic biomolecules. ChELSI research develops new production systems and works with industry partners to improve existing biomanufacturing platforms.
Microbes, being easy to culture, are economic and robust platforms for biomanufacturing. Within ChELSI new bacterial systems are being developed through synthetic biology for facile natural product synthesis and improved protein glycosylation. The potential of thermophilic archaea, which have biotechnological value owing to their tolerance of high temperatures, is also being explored.
The Chinese Hamster Ovary cell line is the most important platform for manufacturing biologics (therapeutic biomolecules such as monoclonal antibodies). Being a mammalian system means CHO cells are able to synthesise products compatible with the human body. In collaboration with leading industry partners, the group of Professor David James takes an engineering approach to the design of improved CHO cell factories. Research ranging from genome sequencing through to modelling cell and population biology, particularly the innate genetic plasticity of CHO cells, aims to increase the utility of the CHO cell production platform.
"Biopharmaceuticals derived from recombinant DNA technology are incredibly successful new treatments for a range of serious diseases such as arthritis and cancers; in the next few years up to 40% of all drugs in development will be biological medicines."
Professor David James
Professor David James is conducting research into bio-processing based on mammalian cell factories.
Dr Robert Falconer is researching small molecule interactions with proteins and the hydration shell around proteins.
Dr Tuck Seng Wong is focusing on engineering bio-molecules (proteins, peptides and nucleic acids) using an amalgam of protein engineering and advanced biophysical techniques.
Dr Stephen Wilkinson's lab has developed computational models of mono-clonal antibody production in CHO cells that are based on experimental data, which has enabled the identification of targets for cell engineering to remove production bottlenecks.
Professor Phillip Wright and Dr Jags Pandhal are researching ways to engineer complex protein modifications in bacteria for later biopharmaceuticals applications.