Innovation – High-Productivity Platform for Future Biomanufacturing

August 8, 2016

Since Biogen’s earliest days, we have been leaders in manufacturing protein-based therapeutics. Our ability to produce high-quality recombinant proteins and antibodies has been critical to the success of our business. We seek to continually advance our manufacturing capabilities to ensure that we are able to deliver high quality therapies to patients whenever and wherever needed.

Now we are embarking on a potential next phase of innovation to serve future patient populations. With co-funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we will work to identify new methods to significantly increase the amount of antibody-based therapies that can be produced compared to today’s methods.

This is an exciting and timely collaboration. During the past 40 years, the demand for antibody-based medicines has increased more than a thousand-fold. The Gates Foundation, with its focus on eradicating infectious diseases and improving access to high-quality healthcare in the developing world, has been exploring ways to transform antibody production methods to serve very large patient populations. If successful monoclonal antibody-based therapies are developed to treat diseases such as malaria, the demand could far exceed the capabilities of current production technologies.

Traditionally, monoclonal antibodies are produced using mammalian cells, often times Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, in large-scale bioreactors. Exploring alternatives to this “expression system” is the focus of this project. Biogen will test eight different expression systems, ranging from yeast and fungi to algae, for their potential to produce monoclonal antibodies at vastly greater productivity levels than currently possible. The results of this effort are expected in 12 to 18 months and will be made publicly available.

Biogen’s commitment to manufacturing innovation has enabled us to consistently meet market and patient demand for biologics, but as we look forward, we too see the potential need for expanded production of monoclonal antibodies – and we are excited to see if there are alternate systems that can supplement or replace today’s state-of-the art platforms.

Through this project we may find that our current biomanufacturing techniques are still the best approach and that in order to produce for large patient populations we need to build more traditional facilities. But what if we could use yeast, fungi or algae as more productive expression systems and still produce high-quality proteins in much larger quantities without building more facilities? We believe this may be possible, and could unlock even greater potential to improve the health of people around the world.]  

Jorg Thommes
Senior Vice President, Technical Development, Biogen

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