Protein Capture Science Seeks to Accelerate Biomedical Research

It is remarkable how many innovators and entrepreneurs in biotechnology businesses are drawn into a particular aspect of science since they were youngsters. That’s the case with Dr. David W. Wood, co-founder, and CTO of Protein Capture Science (PCS). He has been fascinated by DNA and protein science since he was a young boy.

“I still remember the cover of Time Magazine announcing how the ability to splice genes from different organisms was going to change everything,” said Dr. Wood, now Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer professor at The Ohio State University (OSU) with degrees in chemical engineering and biology. “There were going to be antibodies to cure cancer and superbugs to solve the energy crisis.”

Dr. Wood’s particular interest was the revolutionary potential of recombinant DNA, the process of combining two or more different strands of DNA to produce new genetic combinations and proteins. The patented core technology behind Protein Capture Science is the result.

PCS is a spinout of Dr. Wood’s research at OSU. This new venture provides an innovative recombinant protein purification system. Dr. Izabela Gierach is co-founder. She advanced degrees in chemical engineering and biochemistry and an MBA from the Fisher School of Business at OSU.


Protein Capture Science Advances Protein Purification for Research and Development Applications

Recombinant DNA and recombinant proteins are widely used in biotechnology, medicine, and research.

“Once scientists understood how DNA works, they recognized that genetic code is universal.” Dr. Wood said, “That makes it possible to make human proteins using non-human cells, such as yeast or bacteria. This makes drugs made safer than previous technologies since the human immune system will not recognize them as non-human, while the cells that produce them cannot carry human disease.”

However, a challenge remained.

“The problem is that even though you are making a human protein for your human patient,” Dr. Wood said, “there are thousands of non-human proteins in these cells as well. To be useful, the human protein must be separated from all of those other proteins.”

In practice, individual proteins are purified using multiple chromatography steps, where different proteins can be teased out of complex mixtures by passing them through a series of complex filters. It can take numerous filters and many steps to purify a protein, typically the most expensive part of any biopharmaceutical production process.

However, at a laboratory scale, scientists can significantly accelerate the purification process for new proteins by adding a small molecular hook called an affinity tag.

“Although affinity tags can greatly accelerate research,” Wood said, “the FDA doesn’t allow affinity tags on therapeutic proteins because they might cause an immune response. Therefore, if a protein becomes an interesting biopharmaceutical candidate, an entirely new production process must be developed without relying on tags. It can take six months or longer to come up with a suitable non-tag process, assuming you can come up with an acceptable process at all.”

Protein Capture Science has developed an easy and convenient purification platform based on a self-removing affinity tag. “Researchers can put it on a protein like any other affinity tag. However, this tag removes itself during the purification process, thus producing a clean protein that is safe for use in a human patient,” Dr. Wood said.


Next Steps for PCS’s Purification Platform

Protein Capture Science’s technology, now patented and trademarked as the iCapTagTM, provides a single purification platform that can be used to purify a protein from the first time it is discovered to its full-scale production to treat thousands of patients. Since the intermediate development of a new process is not needed, the commercialization of new products is accelerated while the risk is decreased for the companies developing them.

“This technology is fascinating to me,” said Dr. Gierach, “since on the one hand it can be used in high-throughput studies of thousands of proteins at the same time, while on the other hand, the iCapTag technology can bridge research and development with large-scale manufacturing via a single purification platform. This is a unique capability that did not previously exist for proteins other than monoclonal antibodies.”

iCapTagTM is available as 1 mL and 5 mL pre-packaged columns and in bulk resin form. Pre-launch test samples are available for researchers who would like to test the method with their proteins. To pre-order, please click here.