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Engineer ramps up protein production, develops versatile viral spheres

Scientists are taking the amazing protein-making parts out of cells and putting them into systems to mass-produce designer proteins for a wide variety of medical uses. At the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Sept. 13 in San Francisco, Stanford engineering Professor James Swartz will discuss advances in such "cell-free" protein synthesis, including production of versatile, nanoscale viral spheres that can act as delivery trucks for a new class of potentially more effective vaccines.

"We want to make proteins that are important as pharmaceuticals and for other uses," says Swartz, a professor of chemical engineering and bioengineering at Stanford. "If we could produce them with great efficiency and at very low cost, that would be an important step."

He emphasizes: "A living cell has many unique demands for energy, such as for the synthesis of many types of molecules. We would like to focus all of those metabolic resources just on making our product."

Whole cells can be difficult for researchers to use for making custom proteins because they don't always tolerate the chemical changes a researcher needs to impose to make a specific product. Cell-free techniques, in contrast, can be more robust because they use just the protein-making machinery of cells. To harvest just the parts he needs, Swartz literally rips cells open by applying intense shear forces.

For one of his more recent contributions to developing cell-free techniques, Swartz will receive the Gaden Award at the ACS meeting. The award is named for Elmer L. Gaden, the founding editor of the journal Biotechnology & Bioengineering, and recognizes the most outstanding paper of the year in that journal. Swartz, who holds the Leland T. Edwards Professorship in the School of Engineering at Stanford, will receive the award for a paper showing for the first time how glucose, the abundant sugar produced by photosynthesis and used in many organisms, can be used t
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Source:Stanford University


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