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Therapeutic Drugs from Algae! 8

Hope you've all heard about this!

Few people are looking to algae to do a completely different brand of work: the manufacturing of therapeutic drugs, a system that could one day produce large quantities of certain drugs at one-thousandth of today's costs.

A huge number of so-called biologic drugs, made up of proteins rather than small molecules, are produced, en masse, by bacteria, yeast, or mammalian cell culture--the cells produce proteins that are processed and turned into therapies for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes, among many other diseases. But such methods can be expensive to set up and maintain: Feeding them requires large amounts of nutrients, sustaining them requires large amounts of energy, and creating sterile facilities is a costly proposition. Stephen Mayfield, director of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology at the University of California at San Diego, believes that algae, which subsist on sunlight and carbon dioxide in the air, could be an ideal and cost-effective substitute.

In a paper published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, Mayfield and his colleagues looked at the versatility of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in order to determine whether it had the potential to act as a robust drug factory. They inserted genes for production of seven different therapeutic proteins currently being made in yeast, bacteria, and mammalian cells, including interferon (for multiple sclerosis) and proinsulin (for diabetes). Of the seven, the algae produced four proteins at levels high enough for commercial use and in forms that were identical to those made by bacterial and mammalian cell systems, and are just as easy to isolate and concentrate.

Complicated proteins that are produced in mammalian cell culture, such as the potent multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, currently cost an estimated $150 or more per gram of protein. (The number is estimated because few companies release such statistics.) In green algae, Mayfield says, it's closer to a nickel. "That's because it's a plant and it grows in minimal media, pulling carbon dioxide out of the air and using sunlight for its energy source."

Wish you all a very happy & prosperous New (algae) year!!!

Fri December 31 2010 05:28:33 AM by Karthik310 2730 views

Comments - 7

  • Sun January 02 2011 10:45:13 PM

    Hi Karthik310,

    Thanks for sharing the info on Therapeutic Drug from Algae. If would be great and very profitable if algae could produce therapeutic drugs. Gram for gram, ethical drugs have much, much more market value than any biofuels and biochemicals combined. 

    I'm currently working in a very large Biotech Company (Amgen, Inc.) making therapeutic drugs for cancer, metabolic diseases, and other very serious illnesses. These durgs are manufactured using cell culture or bacterial fermentation. They are indeed very expnsive to make  --- $150/gram is relatsively cheap !!!


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  • Shankar wrote:
    Mon January 03 2011 02:01:19 AM

    $ 150 per gram !!
    That sounds pretty interesting. Definitelyl lot more interesting than making biofuel - particularly if you look at profitability.

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  • Mon January 03 2011 03:02:51 AM

    Hi Shankar,

    Yes, US $150 per gram of ethical drug from algae is pretty interesting. It surely beats commodities like fuels and chemicals.

    However, there are high costs for conducting clinical trials (Phase 1, 2, and 3) that are needed before you can market the drug product. Clinical trials could cost 100's of millions of US $. There are other significant costs like quality assurance & quality control management, regulatory cost, etc. associated with prescription drugs.

    I agree, making ethical drugs using algae would be more profitable than making biofuels. This is a simple case of  "commodity vs. specialty"  chemicals.


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  • Richard wrote:
    Mon January 03 2011 07:11:03 AM

    Can u tellme what are these speciality chemicals!

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  • Karthik310 wrote:
    Tue January 04 2011 05:07:33 AM

    Hi Richard,

    Speciality chemicals are produced for technical applications. Inks, performance-enhancing additives, special coatings, and photographic chemicals are common examples. They are generally sold based on differentiated performance-in-use characteristics instead of price per mass, the basis upon which fine chemicals are generally sold.

    These come under fine chemicals - categorized into "Active pharmacuetical ingredients", Biocides (pesticides, herbicides, etc) & Speciality chemicals...

    hope you got some idea..

    MDcastillo1942 & shankar - thanks for your comments



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  • Ldvitug wrote:
    Tue January 04 2011 03:30:21 PM

    Hi all
    I did a review on transgenic microalgae and these algae that produces therapeutics drugs. I'd gladly share this review on my future drugs. Maybe I can do these topic as a future dissertation.

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  • Karthik310 wrote:
    Wed January 05 2011 01:51:33 PM

    hi ldvitug,

    thats a nice thought!! be focussed!!  

    Good luck for your future dissertation!



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