Professor’s startup tackles biopharmaceutical manufacturing problem

Posted: February 21, 2020

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Professor David Wood has been working with proteins for more than 20 years. But he’s not interested in their dietary benefits; rather it’s their key role in new therapies that attracts his attention.

As a graduate student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he helped develop an innovative recombinant protein purification system based on a self-cleaving affinity tag. Aided by a series of government research grants, including a DARPA award, Wood’s technology has been published extensively and is now protected by three patents.

Izabela Gierach and David Wood in his CBEC lab
David Wood and Izabela Gierach in his Ohio State lab. In background, graduate research associates Jackelyn Galiardi, Joe Taris and Brian Marshall.

Recombinant proteins form the basis of many biopharmaceuticals currently in widespread use for treatment of various life-threatening diseases, including cancer, autoimmune diseases, and diabetes, among others. These protein-based therapies are made in living cells grown in large bioreactors, and have structures that are far larger, more complex, and more variable than the structure of synthetic chemical-based drugs.

A challenge in making these drugs safe for use in humans is the need to separate the therapeutic proteins from the thousands of other proteins associated with the cells that are used to make them. According to Wood, these difficult purification procedures require substantial development efforts and ultimately represent the bulk of biopharmaceutical production costs. He and his wife, Izabela Gierach, a fellow chemical engineer who earned her MBA from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, recently launched a company to commercialize his self-cleaving affinity tag platform, which can greatly simplify and accelerate protein and protein fragment purification.

“Reliable, consistent, predictable and cost-effective protein purification platforms, with the smallest possible number of steps, are highly desirable for protein research and manufacturing.  They can speed up research, get new molecules into the clinic faster, and decrease manufacturing costs, all of which can have a significant benefit to patients,” said Wood.

Grad student holding prototype column
Graduate Research Associate Joe Taris holding the company's first prototype purification column

Licensed through The Ohio State University Corporate Engagement Office, Protein Capture Science, LLC, will develop, manufacture and directly distribute this unique technology to potential users in industry, academia and government research laboratories throughout the world.

Last month in San Diego at the 19th Annual “PepTalk: The Protein Science Week,” Wood announced the company launch in an invited presentation, where he provided case studies on how the proprietary platform was used to successfully purify several target proteins. In February 2019, Wood and Gierach also published an article describing the self-cleaving tag and capture resin platform in American Pharmaceutical Review.

“The sky’s the limit when the first biopharmaceutical drug gets approved with the Protein Capture Science technology being used as a key manufacturing platform in its production.”

The company is now taking preorders of their intein-based prepacked columns on their web site.

Wood emphasized that the technology would not have been possible without outstanding students—Joe Taris, Changhua (Steven) Shi, Brian Marshall and Jackelyn Galiardi, among others—and strong collaborations over the past 20 years.

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