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Moss protein factories scaled up

By Katrina Megget , 15-Oct-2007

Normally, they are green, sort of spongy and found in dank nooks and crannies - but mosses have now been designed as therapeutic protein producing factories and are being implemented on a grand scale.

Germany-based biotechnology companies Sartorius Stedim Biotech and Greenovation Biotech have come together to provide commercial scale operations of proteins produced by mosses. Using Greenovation's bryotechnology - protein production technology using mosses - and Sartorius' GMP-compliant photobioreactor for moss cultivation, Greenovation will be able to step up production to meet demand for therapeutic proteins in preclinical and clinical development. According to the two companies, the aim of the agreement is to further promote the development of "this promising and innovative technology". "This collaboration with the application specialists at Sartorius will enable us to further accelerate the pace of transferring the benefits of our unique proprietary bryotechnology to process-scale applications," Greenovation chief financial officer and managing director Andreas Kranzusch said in a statement. "By combining Sartorius' expertise on the one hand together with our edge on this technology on the other, we are able to offer our customers significant added value." The bryotechnology works by genetically modifying the moss cells of Physcomitrella patens, so that they express the desired therapeutic protein. The moss cells can also be genetically engineered so they will attach specific sugar molecules to the proteins, which often gives the proteins the function to perform. The moss is cultivated in a photobioreactor - a circular glass tube - where the moss directly expresses the proteins into the surrounding media which is then purified downstream. "[Mosses] are very simple organisms. They are very simple to cultivate and they only require water and some salts. They are very cost effective and are very stable - there are no issues like quality problems. And they can modify the glyco structure which is something bacteria can't do," Kranzusch told "This collaboration is a very important step for us." A production facility according to GMP-guidelines to produce biopharmaceuticals for clinic trials is planned to be installed in Heilbronn, Germany, next year. The two companies have previously worked together on developing fermentation processes in the field of bryotechnology. Sartorius will provide the first photobioreactor within the next few months.

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