Pfizer-MIT Partnership to Streamline Production of Biologic Drugs

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Thursday announced a new three-year collaboration aimed at advancing drug discovery and development technologies through synthetic biology. The hope is that new technologies can help lower the cost of producing some of the most complex biologically based drugs, according to the Boston Business Journal.

“Biologics based in recombinant DNA technology have transformed the treatment of many diseases over the last few decades,” Jose Carlos Gutierrez-Ramos, senior vice president and head of Pfizer’s BioTherapeutics Research and Development team, said in an MIT press release. ”We are reaching a key inflection point where advances in synthetic biology have the potential to rapidly accelerate and improve biotherapeutics drug discovery and development, from early-stage candidate discovery through product supply, which could bring better, more effective therapies to patients more rapidly.”

This most recent partnership isn’t the first between Pfizer and MIT. The two have had dozens of efforts together over the years, but this one, Gutierrez-Ramos said, is focused on developing a better way to manufacture drugs while the others were primarily concerned with drug discovery.

Synthetic biology is an emerging field that combines elements of computer science and design engineering to enable precise regulation of cellular and genetic processes. Recent advances in the field of biologic drugs have allowed researchers to harness multiple genes that play a role in the production of proteins, allowing for more control over the production of specific proteins, the Boston Business Journal reports.

The goal of the Pfizer-MIT partnership is to improve the efficiency with which researchers are able to produce specific proteins synthetically by using these new technologies, which utilize more genes in the process — around 40 or 50 — versus just one.

“We are looking forward to expanding our relationship with Pfizer to advance research in synthetic biology” said Doug Lauffenburger, head of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering. “This collaboration supports out goal of to develop sophisticated synthetic biological systems from standardized, well-characterized modular parts for useful application in multiple fields, including biopharmaceutical molecular and bioprocess design.”