CHO over? Biopharma and MIT team on alternative cell line R&D

Biogen, Amgen, Pfizer, Genentech and Sanofi have teamed with an MIT-led group aiming to develop new biomanufacturing cell lines and methods.

The collaboration – known as the AltHost Consortium – will share research to explore innovative ways to produce biologics and vaccines for clinical usage in diseases from diabetes to cancer.

Lead researcher Christopher Love from MIT likened the collaboration to the early days of the biopharmaceutical industry.

Image: iStock/diegograndi

“When biomanufacturing first emerged as a field, shared knowledge across laboratories was crucial for the development of new technologies, and everyone had a stake in the conversation.

“In recent years, despite adopting similar approaches to manufacturing, some companies have behaved more independently. By returning the collaborative spirit we once had, we aim to enable new manufacturing solutions that offer both speed and volume.”

CHO business

Currently, the biopharmaceutical industry relies heavily on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells to produce therapeutics. Partly this reflects collaborative efforts to develop the technologies and systems needed to use CHO cells on an industrial scale.

The CHO Consortium, for example, works to characterize CHO cell genomes and develop tools to manipulate glycosylation processes – with the aim of enhancing product quality. Members of the consortium share research costs.

Using a similar approach, the AltHost Consortium will try to build a library of customizable, alternative (non-mammalian) eukaryotic cells like yeast, fungi, and microalgae.

According to the organization these hosts grow significantly faster than mammalian cells, do not harbor adventitious agents, and potentially allow for more agile applications with greater volumetric productivity.

Yeast we can

The first candidate AltHost will look at is Pichia pastoris, a yeast found on the surface chestnut trees that is widely used in Biochemical research and Biotech industries.

According to consortium member Daniel Degreif, laboratory head for Molecular Biology and Strain Development at Sanofi, Pichia pastoris has demonstrated a ten-fold improvement in volumetric productivity of monoclonal antibodies.

“By expanding the expertise in using new expression hosts through our joined consortium work, we hope to help transforming scientific knowledge and medical advances into next generation cutting-edge therapies,” Degreif said.