Boehringer and VTU extend yeast-based expression system tech deal

By Dan Stanton

- Last updated on GMT

Yeast is yeast... B-I and VTU extend Pichia pastoris expression system agreement
Yeast is yeast... B-I and VTU extend Pichia pastoris expression system agreement

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Boehringer-Ingelheim has renewed its collaboration with VTU technology to develop a yeast-based protein expression system for biopharmaceutical production.

The first agreement between Germany’s Boehringer-Ingelheim and Austria’s VTU was signed in 2010, and this extension will see continued development of the Pichia pastoris​ expression platform.

Pichia pastoris is an established yeast-based protein expression host mainly applied for the production of biopharmaceuticals and industrial enzymes,”​ VTU spokesperson Evelyn Trummer-Gödl told

Like other methylotrophic yeasts, Pichia pastoris contains no pyrogens, pathogens or viral inclusionscan grow on methanol and can be cultured in large fermenters to high cell densities within a short time.

“The yeast Pichia pastoris combines the advantages of prokaryotes, such as fast growth to high cell densities on inexpensive & chemically defined media and easy genetic manipulation," ​Trummer-Gödl explained, "as well as eukaryotic features including a subcellular protein processing machinery needed for secretion and post-translation modification including proteolytic processing, folding and disulfide bond formation.”

The platform is based on VTU’s synthetic AOX1 promoter libraries which ‘fine tunes’ gene expression by selecting the best match for a range of different combinations of promoters and a target gene, and can lead to increased levels of protein production, with yields of over 20 g/L, she added.

Production will take place at VTU’s facility in Grambach, Austria, combining Pichia pastoris​ strain development, protein expression, fermentation and downstream processing, and will be available for both Boehringer-Ingelheim’s proprietary biologics and to customers through its third-party manufacturing BioXcellence unit.

Georg Klima, Executive Director Process Science Austria at Boehringer Ingelheim, said the firm is “excited about the continuation of our successful collaboration with VTU​.” No financial details have been divulged.

In December, VTU entered into a development and commercialisation agreement with Tucson, Arizona-based firm Research Corporation Technologies (RCT) to combine the Pichia pastoris​ expression system with RCT’s Pichia GlycoSwitch systemin order to offer customers a high-volume recombinant glycoproteins production system.

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