The European PURE project received a funding of nearly €3 million to develop sustainable processes to manufacture biopharmaceuticals, which include biological drugs such as antibodies and viral particles, used in cancer treatment and in vaccination, respectively. The project is coordinated by Cecília Roque, leader of the Biomolecular Engineering Laboratory UCIBIO - FCT NOVA.
Three other institutions participate in the PURE consortium: Universität für Bodenkultur Wien (BOKU, Austria), Universität Bayreuth (Germany) and Institute of Experimental and Technological Biology (Portugal).
The project started in October and, over the next 4 years, the multidisciplinary team proposes to improve the way biological drugs are produced. Although biopharmaceuticals are critical in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of many diseases, they are not easily available to those in need, either due to the high cost or to low manufacturing yields.
“We are pioneers in the development of new materials and processes for more efficient, low-cost and sustainable purification of biopharmaceuticals”, says Cecília Roque, Associate Professor at FCT NOVA. In fact, “the purification of biopharmaceuticals accounts for up to 80% of the total manufacturing costs”, adds Cristina Peixoto, Head of the Downstream Process Development Lab at iBET, and “innovative concepts for the purification of virus-like particles and other biological drugs are a current need, especially considering the current COVID-19 pandemic”, comments Alois Jungbauer, Head of Institute of Bioprocess Science and Engineering at BOKU, Vienna.
The scalable production of new biobased materials, as nanofibers, for the efficient capture of biological products is currently a performance limitation in medical and technical applications. The PURE project innovates the way advanced biobased materials are currently thought, through the design of nanofibers that bind with high precision to biological products. “Biogenic, mechanically robust membrane systems are well suited for air and water filtration purposes. With the power of genetic engineering, it is possible to develop also novel materials for the selective purification of biologicals. We are keen to contribute to this fascinating project”, says Thomas Scheibel, head of the Biomaterials Department of the University of Bayreuth.
The project coordinator, Cecília Roque, assures that "only a radical change in purification technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of the biopharmaceutical industry”, and that the new purification processes are faster and more efficient, making biopharmaceuticals quickly available and economically accessible to everyone. Alois Jungbauer further explains that “the developed materials and processes meet the requirements of a biobased economy because they are fully degradable and combine environmental friendliness with improved economics”.
The FET Open call - Future and Emerging Technologies - is a programme under the Horizon 2020 Community Framework Program for Research & Innovation that aims to promote research and technology beyond what is known, accepted or widely recognized and to encourage new ideas that lead to the discovery of new technologies.
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