Multi-million EU-project in “green chemistry” for Competence Center acib
New environmentally friendly chemical production methods for drugs are the target of a 26 million Euro EU-project called CHEM21 – Chemistry for the 21st Century. The project volume of the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) is EUR 1.8 million. acib leads the promising research area "synthetic biology".
Most effective drugs without environmentally harmful production methods are the goal of the European Union’s "Innovative Medicine Initiative". It has a enourmous budget of two billion Euros, which is financed half by the EU and half by the pharmaceutical industry. Now the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) plays an important role within the IMI-project "Chemical Production for the Pharmaceutical Industry of the 21st Century "(CHEM 21) with a total budget of 26.4 million euros, acib leads the important field of research called “Synthetic Biology” with a budget of EUR 1.8 million.
Today producing medical agents is a resource-devouring thing. For a kilogram of a medical agent industry consumes 100 and more kilograms of raw materials and a lot of energy. In addition, these processes are time-consuming and produce harmful waste, which needs to be worked up. Finally, the pharmaceutical industry is struggling with dwindling resources. For example, platinum, a commonly used catalyst, is becoming scarcer and therefore more expensive. Thus, green, eco-friendly alternatives are needed.
The Austrian Competence Center of Industrial Biotechnology handles two focus areas within CHEM21. The first is biocatalysis in chemical synthesis. "Our goal is to make production processes in synthetic organic chemistry not only more economical but also environmentally friendly" says Prof. Rolf Breinbauer, head of the Institute of Organic Chemistry at Graz University of Technology and acib key researcher. The second focus is also the newest special subject at acib. "Synthetic biotechnology allows to produce complex drugs with the help of microorganisms that up to now have to be isolated in small amounts for example from plants and are not available in sufficient quantities", explains Prof. Anton Glieder, scientific manager of acib.
To make this possible, scientists integrate the metabolic pathway in microorganisms, which makes the cells produce the desired drug in large quantity and high quality. The process can be compared to the car industry: a car factory has many production lines for different models. If required, a specific production line will be adjusted according to the manufacturer’s needs and put into operation to produce the desired model. "The secret lies in the flexible and efficient fitting of the pathway – the “production line” – into the micro-organisms", explains Anton Glieder.
Project-leader GSK is delighted to be collaborating with the acib as part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) call sustainable chemistry – delivering medicines for the 21st century., says Luke Humphreys, director of Synthetic Biology at GSK: „Improving the sustainability of our drug manufacturing processes through collaborations such as CHEM21 will not only reduce our industry’s carbon footprint, but will provide increased access to medicines through cost reduction and drive innovations that will transform our manufacturing capabilities.“
The new approach makes drugs cheaper and their production more environmentally friendly. The potential of the method can be shown by the production of Artemisinin, which is manufactured by a CHEM21 project partner on the basis of synthetic biology. This most effective anti-malaria drug was long too expensive for widespread use. Thanks to a biotechnological production method based on synthetic biology the price dropped while the quality has increased. It is now widely available.
Biotechnology connects Slovenia and Austria
COBIK – the Centre of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control – is the second partner from Slovenia for the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib). The first joint project is a highly specialized multi-day workshop on downstream techniques in April 2013 applied for biomolecule and nanoparticle purification.
Traditional methods used in chemical or pharmaceutical industry are mostly resource intensive and not environmentally friendly at all. The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) works on replacing these old methods with innovative ones. Nature is used as a model for cleaner and more economical processes. Actually a new strategic partnership between acib and COBIK – the Slovenian Center of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control – promotes this endeavor.
COBIK is a highly innovative private research institute from Slovenia with research projects in biochemistry and biochemical engineering. Both partners want to establish new, more environmentally friendly and more economical biotechnological processes in industrial production, explain Prof. Alois Jungbauer (acib, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna) and Prof. Aleš Podgornik (COBIK). The main focus of the cooperation is to strengthen the position of Slovenian and Austrian biotechnology on an international level. "For example, we think of joint projects funded by the European Union”, says Anton Glieder, scientific director of acib. Another objective is a training and educational initiative for scientific key persons, which ultimately is not only an advantage for the acib-sites in Vienna, Innsbruck and Graz but also for those from COBIK in Solkan Nova Gorica, Ajdovscina and Ljubljana. Rebeka Koncilja, CEO COBIK, emphasizes the importance of establishing efficient partnerships that promise an upgrading of already existing research excellence: “For COBIK this cooperation means international recognition, easier cooperation with Austrian biotech companies and research institutions, the possibility of preparation and applying on international calls for tenders and of course an upgrade of our long-term strategy.”
The first joined project is a biodownstream technology course. The workshop will be held from April 15-19, 2013 at the Marine Biology Station in Piran (Slo). It was designed for employees from industry engaged in upstream and downstream processing, researchers challenged with purification of nucleic acids, proteins, viruses and virus like particles as well as graduate students and postdocs who want to increase their theoretical and practical knowledge of modern downstream processing. You find more information on this course for 20 participants at http://goo.gl/7bMQl.
acib in the spotlight of international biotechnology
The Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) presents its research in a special acib-Conference at the 15th European Congress on Biotechnology in Istanbul. Several 1000 scientists take part in the largest biotech event in Europe.
"Biotechnology for industrial production", is the motto of the 15th European Congress on Biotechnology (ECB15), from September 23 to 26 in Istanbul. acib (Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology) is not only a partner of the event, but will also present a lot of exciting research findings in the international limelight.
The Congress deals with all priority areas of biotechnology: bio-energy, fuels and refinery technology, genetics and stem cell research, climate change including organic food technologies and the use of computers and information technology for the medicine of tomorrow. At this event 25 acib-employees will present their knowledge in both the main program and in a special "acib Symposium".
Among others acib scientists Prof. Alois Jungbauer informs about bioprocessing and the ideal transfer of biotechnological production methods from laboratory to industrial scale; upscaling from the the scale of a thimble to that of a swimming pool. Kathrin Greimel reports about the "biopaint", which was developed at acib replacing the heavy metals so far needed for the paint hardening process by eco-friendly enzymes. Actually heavy metals are classified as potentially cancerogenic. Margit Winkler speaks about the "artificial liver project": The world's first test system on a preparative scale that in vitro simulates the breakdown of drugs in the body. Regina Grillaris talks about new liver cell lines that are used to predict a possible nephrotoxicity better than ever before. Biocat Award 2012 laureate Prof. Wolfgang Kroutil informs about revolutionary enzymatic approaches in preparative organic chemistry. "For us, this congress as an ideal opportunity to present our research at an international level," explains Prof. Anton Glieder, scientific director of the acib.
ACIB is sponsoring an award at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the ÖGMBT
The ÖGMBT/acib PhD prize went to Matthias Hackl for his dissertation on the role of microRNAs in CHO cells.
The annual meeting of the Austrian Society for Molecular Life Sciences and Biotechnology just took place in Graz. acib was sponsoring a special prize at this very important event about biotechnology in Austria for an outstanding dissertation at an Austrian university. The award went to Matthias Hackl for his work "MicorRNAs in in CHO cell culture technology - small RNAs with big future in mammalian cell engineering", which he carried out in the laboratory of acib key-scientist Nicole Borth at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Vienna.
In his research project Matthias Hackl deals with the control of the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for efficient cell growth, high productivity and high product quality. CHO cells are very popular places for production of therapeutic proteins. The prize was awarded by Birgit Wiltschi who directs the junior research group "Synthetic Biology" at acib.