Cheaper and better medicine. That is one of the perspectives of the research into the development of new mammalian cell lines, instrumental to the development of biological pharmaceuticals, towards which The Novo Nordisk Foundation has recently donated just short of $50 million.
The target is to design the cells as robust factories of new cells that effectively produce
proteins with tailor-made properties for medical treatment. If a production on an industrial scale is considered feasible it will allow for a new and cheaper way of developing pharmaceuticals for a number of purposes, e.g. antibodies for the treatment of cancer, remedies for psoriasis, blood diseases and diseases related to the immune system. To society, it would obviously lead to substantial savings over time if the prize of medicine could be reduced.
This research, unique in the world, will take place at the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability at the Technical University of Denmark. The center opened in 2011 and has already been supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation with DKK 700 million ($122 mio.) over a period of ten years. The new donation means that Denmark will move to the forefront in this important field of research.
- With the enlargement of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability Denmark will be a leading force in the research into cell factories. The initiative will help retain the talent in Denmark, said Ulf J. Johansson, chairman of the Novo Nordisk Foundation.
One of the challenges in the development of biological pharmaceuticals is that even the smallest of changes in protein structure could potentially have a large impact and cause serious adverse effects. Hence, it is important to control meticulously that the cells produce the proteins in the exact right form.
Specifically, it is the mammalian cell line called CHO (i.e. Chinese Hamster Ovary) the researchers at the Technical University of Denmark want to study and design. The CHO cells are already in use in the biotechnological industry, but they are limited by the fact that it has, as of yet, not been possible to control and design the way the cells produce protein.
In 2011, however, the genome sequence of the CHO cell line K1was mapped out opening for the possibility of managing the CHO cells and consequently producing tailor-made therapeutic proteins. The vision for the research at the Technical University of Denmark is therefore to lead and accelerate the development of a CHO cell-based production for the benefit of the next generation of biopharmaceuticals.
- This exceptional, innovative program gathers a group of the leading researchers in order to meet a towering challenge in the biopharmaceutical industry. The perspectives for research and the long-term consequences for the medical industry are vast. I expect the project to meet its target and stand as an example for others to follow, said Professor Bernhard Palsson, who is managing director of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability.
The new donation to the Technical University of Denmark means that the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Biosustainability will be expanded with a number of new CHO cell research sections that will also encompass key activities at the Copenhagen Center for Glycomics at the University of Copenhagen and the University of California, San Diego, USA.