Growth factors are essential components in cell culture medium for pharmacological products as well as for cultivated meat production and also pharmaceuticals on their own. Still, their application is hampered by their folding instability. For example, their half-life in aqueous solutions is in the minutes to hours range. Accordingly, a large fraction of product is lost already during production. Systematic screening and optimization of suitable expression hosts and manufacturing processes is a highly potent approach to alleviate this bottleneck and it complements existing protein engineering efforts (https://acib.at/god-mode-growth-factors-cheat-the-nature/). In the former context, plants can offer several unique advantages such as the absence of any animal-derived components in the process and the inherently low burden with human pathogens, e.g. viruses. In addition, plant cultivation is cost-efficient – even compared to bacterial hosts – and scalable even under GMP conditions. Therefore, we propose to use a plant molecular farming approach to manufacture growth factors for various food, feed and pharma applications.
Here, we will use a high-throughput compatible screening tool based on plant cells to identify optimal expression conditions (promoters, UTRs, codon optimization, target compartment) and apply platform purification processes to obtain pure growth factors that can be tested in relevant cell culture settings. The purification will predominantly rely on cost-efficient and easy-to-scale membrane technologies and minimize the use of chromatographic purification.
After expression, growth factors are tested on relevant cell lines, where their biologic activity will be assessed with several complementary methods, e.g. immunofluorescence staining and qPCR for upregulation of specific cellular markers, and/or Western Blotting for activation of the downstream pathway targets.
Additionally, if desired, this offer can be combined with acib offer for high-end growth factor optimization using de-novoapproach (https://acib.at/god-mode-growth-factors-cheat-the-nature/). Thermal stability/half-life of the optimized variants can be determined, in addition to characterising their biologic activity.