Phenotypeca, a ground-breaking, progressive biotech start-up and generator of the world’s largest collection of diverse baker’s yeast strains, is enabling improved yields and precision fermentation capability for its customers by pioneering the enhanced use of their platform for animal-free recombinant protein production.
Breathing new life into the use of baker’s yeast for medicine manufacture, Phenotypeca combines the breeding of naturally diverse yeast strains (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) with next-generation genomics techniques. This revolutionary approach is addressing some of the world’s biggest healthcare challenges by making the manufacture of recombinant proteins faster, cheaper, and animal-free, while also reducing the overall impact on the environment.
Therapeutic recombinant proteins date back to the 1980s when human insulin was created in bacteria to treat diabetes. Prior to this discovery, insulin was obtained from animal sources. Recombinant proteins are produced by engineered cell factories that can be used to treat and prevent disease. Baker’s yeast, an ingredient used for centuries in bread and wine manufacture, can be used to improve the production of recombinant proteins.
Baker’s yeast has the added advantage of being generally regarded as safe and easy to engineer for a variety of protein products, thanks to a wealth of genetic research. Unlike bacterial systems, yeast produces and folds proteins in a similar way to human cells, facilitating the production of human-compatible antibody fragments and other therapeutics. It is also a much more sustainable alternative to using animal cell systems, which are not only slow-growing, expensive to maintain and difficult to scale but also use more energy and CO2.
Recombinant antibodies and antibody-based products, which help the immune system to recognise pathogens or cancer cells, can also be efficiently produced in baker’s yeast. Additionally, virus-like particles (VLPs) - non-infectious assemblies of viral proteins – have led to breakthroughs in vaccine development for major diseases, including hepatitis B and more recently, malaria.
Phenotypeca has a unique, innovative platform for developing baker’s yeast strains for the industrial-scale manufacture of vaccines, therapeutics and other recombinant proteins – a market which has seen over $200 billion in revenue globally in 2020.
Phenotypeca offers an animal-free, sustainable option for these markets as well as other industrial applications. The team have developed first-generation baker’s yeast platforms for vaccines and therapeutics, and have previously codeveloped processes for the cGMP manufacture of recombinant human albumin (Recombumin®, USP-NF monograph standard), which has achieved FDA and EMA approval.
“Quite simply, our mission at Phenotypeca is to develop baker’s yeast strains that will allow medical treatments to become more affordable to everyone,” says Keith Williams, Director at Phenotypeca. “We have the world’s largest unique collection of baker’s yeast strains, bred and engineered for stable industrial recombinant protein production. Almost everything found in baker’s yeast is also found in humans. Therefore, it is well suited to making certain types of human proteins. Furthermore, yeast can be harnessed as tiny, efficient factories for producing biopharmaceuticals. We can see that there is a global demand for recombinant proteins, with more than 170 currently produced for use in therapies and vaccines. This number is set to increase over the next few years when yeast biofactories will have an unprecedented impact on lowering the cost and increasing the accessibility of medicines to all who need them, not just in wealthy Western countries.”