Dr. Doug Lauffenburger, head of MIT's Department of Biological Engineering.  (Photo courtesy MIT)
Dr. Doug Lauffenburger, head of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering. (Photo courtesy MIT)

The Synthetic Biology Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and drug giant Pfizer have announced a three-year collaboration deal to apply the latest developments in synthetic biology to the drug discovery and manufacturing process.

MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center is an initiative of the school’s Department of Biological Engineering and is made up of faculty from various departments.

Synthetic biology combines biology and engineering to “make the construction of novel biological systems into a practical and useful engineering discipline.”  (MIT Synthetic Biology Center)  Synthetic biologists utilize computer science and design engineering concepts to model and enable precise regulation of cellular and genetic processes.

According to a recent article in the Boston Business Journal, Pfizer’s goal with the collaboration is to reduce costs and maximize efficiency in the manufacture of large-molecule biologic drugs, which are currently made using a single gene to create proteins, which must then be purified in a multi-step process in order to isolate the exact protein needed for a drug.

Pfizer and MIT will attempt to reduce the number of purification steps by using 40 or 50 genes to create more of the specific protein that is needed for a drug’s manufacture.

Doug Lauffenburger, head of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering stated:

“We look forward to expanding our relationship with Pfizer to advance research in synthetic biology.  This collaboration supports our goal to develop sophisticated synthetic biological systems from standardized, well-characterized modular parts for useful application in multiple fields, including biopharmaceutical molecular and bioprocess design.”

Terms of the deal were not announced.  Click here to read the press release from MIT.

For more information on the MIT Synthetic Biology Center, please click here.