The company's first US patent covers the use of plant-based glycol-engineering and offers wide-ranging protection for the processing of plant-specific sugar residues as an alternative to conventional production techniques. By genetically engineering mosses to produce specific proteins as well as to over-express the glycotransferases that glycosylate the proteins, biopharmaceutical products can be produced in a cost effective and safe manner. Greenovation's chief scientific officer, Dr Gilbert Gorr estimates that this technology could lead to bioprocess cost reductions of around 50 per cent. These cost savings derive from a variety of sources most notably from the fact that the moss only needs water, minerals and a light source to produce the biopharmaceuticals rather than the expensive cell culture medium often needed to produce these drugs.
Dr Gorr explained that the photo-bioreactors consist of a tubular glass system that utilises standard light sources to feed the photosynthesis process that fuels the drug production. The moss secretes the drugs into the supernatant solution which not only leads to less downstream processing but also allows the same moss to be used for months, simplifying the operation process significantly compared with standard bioreactor set ups. One of the major hurdles that the company is finding is the reluctance of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to switch from their established production methodologies. Dr Gorr believes that one of the major reasons for this is the cost of getting regulatory approval for producing biological drugs by different methods as the process involves certain clinical trials to prove efficacy and comparability.
Last June, Greenovation signed a licensing deal with Bayer Innovation allowing them access to the company's protein glycosylation in plants. At the time Gerd Seidl, global project leader for this field at Bayer innovation said: "Collaboration with Greenovation will give us access to innovative glycosylaiton technology that will complement our own skills and technologies and ahs particular applicability to our work on plant-made pharmaceuticals."