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Project Brief

Open Competition 3 - Biotechnology

Debugging Protein Glycosylation for Biotherapeutics

Genetically transform caterpillars to produce therapeutic protein drugs 100 times faster than any current technology, decreasing drug development costs and increasing affordable drug production capacity.

Sponsor: Chesapeake PERL, Inc.

387 Technology Drive
College Park, MD 20742
  • Project Performance Period: 10/1/2003 - 9/30/2006
  • Total project (est.): $2,620,000.00
  • Requested ATP funds: $2,000,000.00

Advances in the development of protein drugs for treating conditions such as hemophilia and various autoimmune diseases have outpaced the development of inexpensive, fast methods of manufacturing these human recombinant glycoprotein drugs. To help solve this problem, Chesapeake PERL, Inc. (C-PERL) plans to develop technologies for innovative production of transgenic caterpillars, called "transpillars." Transpillars will be genetically engineered to produce recombinant human proteins with human-like sugar attachments instead of those typical of insects. Using these transpillars in the glyco protein manufacturing process will enable high-volume, cost-competitive production of a broad range of biopharmaceuticals. C-PERL plans to first genetically transform the caterpillars, then create a stable line of insects for continued mass production of the needed glycoproteins. This would help lower drug development costs by $140 million per drug and shorten the time to market for new drugs, translating into lower drug prices and reduced health care costs for consumers. It could also allow the marketing of new drugs that otherwise might prove too expensive to manufacture and help make up for the current shortage of manufactured glycoproteins. This three-year project would leverage C-PERL's existing protein manufacturing process against the innovations proposed for improved manufacturing of human protein biotherapeutics. Recent technical advances have made development of this process feasible, but risks remain high. For example, C-PERL cannot guarantee that the insect lines created by this new, untested technology will survive. The company cannot fully fund this project internally and venture capital is not available because of the high-risk nature of the research and development to be done. Receipt of ATP funding could accelerate the technical development process by five years, enabling C-PERL to become a more efficient manufacturer of recombinant proteins and, subsequently, to open new markets to the technology. C-PERL's partners for this project will be the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming and the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame.

For project information:
Ms. Terry Chase, (301) 405-0207

ATP Project Manager
Douglas Jones, (301) 975-2004

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