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Yeast Cells May Revolutionize Genetic Therapies

Producing antibodies in yeast cultures rather than mammalian cells takes a fraction of the time and may substantially reduce production costs, resulting in cheaper therapies for patients. 

What’s the Latest Development?

For many, migraines are on the short list of conditions that can strike seemingly without provocation and be completely debilitating. But now, a pharmaceutical company in the state of Washington hopes that a new antibody injection can block a specific protein known to cause migraines. “The company, called Alder Biopharmaceuticals, is testing the efficacy of the drug in a clinical study of 160 patients, each of whom has between four and 14 migraines per month; Alder expects the results of the study to be in this fall.” The production of the antibody is unique in that the company uses yeast cultures to grow it, rather than mammalian cells.

What’s the Big Idea?

When it comes to creating new genetic therapies, the use of yeast to grow antibodies represents what could be a substantial medical breakthrough. While a typical crop of antibodies takes 12 months to grow in mammalian cells, the same amount of medicine can be grown in 5 weeks using yeast cells as incubators. “Alder [Biopharmaceuticals] also says that producing antibodies in yeast will also be cheaper compared to producing them in mammalian cells, which grow more slowly than yeast and require more costly culturing conditions.” That could mean more innovative therapies for less cost to patients. 

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Read it at MIT Technology Review


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