Researches Working

Algae: Revolution in Protein Therapeutics


Algae: Revolution in Protein Therapeutics
In his 2012 state of the union address, President Barack Obama declared, “Today the
discoveries taking place in our federally financed labs and universities could lead to
new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched.” These
therapies have become a reality and are currently marketed by pharmaceutical
companies as a highly effective treatment against cancers. However, there is one
major drawback to these revolutionary therapies, their extremely high cost. With
treatments ranging upwards of $120,000 per patient, these treatments create a
financial burden on the entire healthcare system.
The methods by which these molecules are created start with the production of
antibodies in Chinese hamster ovary cells, followed by the secretion of the
antibodies from the cells, subsequent purification of the antibodies, chemical
coupling of a drug molecule to the antibodies and finally another purification of the
antibody drug conjugate. The whole process of chemical coupling and multiple
rounds of purification dramatically increase the cost of these potent therapies
leaving much to be desired in terms of their economic feasibility.
Viable and Cost Effective Production Platform
Over the last decade, the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Mayfield has developed the
American algae cell expression platform to produce these valuable
antibody-drug conjugate therapies cost effectively. Algae have chloroplasts that
are capable of producing human antibodies that are genetically linked to toxin
molecules that function as a drug, thereby eliminating the need for the costly
process of chemical coupling and potentially making these algae derived
molecules dramatically cheaper. These algal produced antibody drug
conjugates are effective at specifically targeting cancer cells and inhibiting
their proliferation, demonstrating that algae are a viable platform for the
production of these treatments.
For decades there has been an increase in funding poured into the
development of more effective therapies; however the breakthroughs in
treatment have not been coupled with major breakthroughs in production
methods, leaving much to be desired. The algal protein production platform
has the potential to revolutionize medicine and dramatically impact the cost
of healthcare by reducing the overall cost of next generation therapies. With
continued support, the future is bright for these microscopic green
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