As biologic drugs become ever more prominent, Avecia Biologics is winning plaudits for its advanced protein expression system pAVEway, gaining recognition from international industry experts and investing to meet increased demand.
The company's technology won this year's innovation award at the international CPhI trade show in Milan, beating off stiff competition from fellow nominees DSM Pharmaceutical Products, Dowpharma, Codexis, BASF and SiliCycle.
The protein expression technology has seen strong interest from the industry since its launch in May this year, and as such the firm recently announced a £1m (€1.44m) investment in its UK biologics facility to meet increased demand for the technology.
Speaking at the CPhI show, Stephen Taylor, Avecia's business director, addressed some of the challenges facing manufacturers of biologic drugs that pushed the development of the pAVEway system.
"One of the things that's dramatic in the biotech world is how quickly we're seeing a pace of change," Taylor said.
"The wave of novel products hitting us require new approaches to how we develop and manufacture to deliver safe and effective and affordable drugs."
According to Taylor, many stakeholders are of the opinion that when it comes to biologic drugs, they are often too late, take too long to develop and are too costly.
Avecia, however, has managed to develop a protein expression technology that appears to cut down time and costs by such a degree that the company is heralding it as the new approach to biologic drug development.
One of the key points that Taylor emphasised is that when it comes to biologics, it's not all about maximum volume:
"With biologics, and proteins in particular, you have a real challenge between concentration and amount of product versus the correct three-dimensional structure, which is absolutely critical for activity in the body," he explained.
"More product is absolutely not always best. The absolute key is control, and being able to get the right level of control over the amount of product and its three-dimensional structure."
Managing to produce high concentrations of active protein during fermentation often causes a bottleneck in the development of an efficient production process, according to Avecia. However, the company believes it has successfully tackled this challenge with its innovative expression technology.
pAVEway promises to provide the control necessary to balance concentration and quality, with impressive microbial production of over 10g per litre, as well as Avecia's target turnaround time of less than two months between being presented with a gene and progressing all the way to scale-up.
The system can also deal with "the world outside antibodies," as Taylor calls it, and can successfully be applied to enzymes, hormones, cytokines or other therapeutically useful proteins, providing real flexibility.
Avecia also sees potential for pAVEway through its use in a variety of host systems. Already established in E. Coli and Pseudomonas, proof of concept has also been shown in yeast and mammalian cells.
"We see pAVEway as a advance that's going to move us from a leading microbial system, through to a world-leading system in both yeast and mammalian as well," said Taylor.
With the recognition the system has already won in terms of significant interest from prospective customers, as well as the added bonus of the CPhI award, Avecia's high hopes for the technology are perhaps well-founded, with the system potentially set to challenge some of the more established players in the industry.