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1-Proteins: Insulin may be produces in GE chicken eggs

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Which came first? New insulin source
SOURCE: LSU AgCenter, USA, by Rick Bogren
DATE:   Jun 24, 2003

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Which came first? New insulin source

BATON ROUGE, La. - An LSU AgCenter researcher announced that he has
developed a revolutionary process to produce proinsulin - which can be
processed into human insulin - as well as other proteins and peptides in
poultry eggs.

Richard Cooper, a microbiologist in the LSU AgCenter's Department of
Veterinary Science, said that in early work with quail, the birds not
only produce proteins in their eggs but pass the traits on to subsequent

"This has the potential for revolutionizing the way pharmaceuticals are
produced," Cooper said. He said the process involves the way genes are
put into animals to benefit human medicine.

"The procedures developed with quail are directly applicable to
chickens," Cooper said. "These transgenic chickens can produce
pharmaceutical-grade protein drugs such as insulin and growth hormone for
a fraction of the cost of processes currently used."

Cooper said with more than 100 protein-based pharmaceuticals in various
stages of clinical trials, the drug industry needs production methods
more economical than the current ones involving facilities costing from
$250 million to $500 million each.

The LSU AgCenter scientist's process is based on patented and patent-
pending procedures he developed using what he termed a "vector" that
introduces specific genes into poultry.

"The transgenic poultry then produce proteins for use in pharmaceuticals
at a fraction of the cost of production methods used in the bio-
pharmaceutical industry," Cooper said.

The LSU AgCenter and Cooper have the patents and have licensed them to
TransGenRes LLC (TGR), a biological manufacturing company.

Cost has been the single greatest obstacle faced by pharmaceutical firms
and related industries that use proteins and biologics in health care as
well as in industrial applications, said Bill Fioretti, a biochemist and
president of TGR.

During Monday's announcements, Fioretti called Cooper's technology "the
most significant biotech breakthrough in two decades." He said the
process "allows us to produce human protein drugs - essentially any
protein of value - in the eggs of chickens."

The Louisiana Economic Development Corp. provided a grant of $2.5 million
to purchase equipment and expand the facilities on the LSU AgCenter
campus in Baton Rouge that are currently being leased to TGR for its
initial operations.

"This is truly an exciting day for our state," said Don Hutchinson,
secretary of Louisiana Economic Development. "It can mean jobs for people
of our state. We can compete in the biotech area; we can compete in the
science area."

Fioretti said TGR will be a Louisiana company.

"Our goal is to be a world leader in the production of protein drugs and
be based in Louisiana," Fioretti said. "This investment will return
significant benefit to the taxpayers of Louisiana."

Calling it "a scalable, expandable process to maximize productivity,"
Fioretti said the process is "rapid-expression technology that will
produce protein drugs at a fraction of the cost of current production

The net result will be a huge benefit to both consumers and the
pharmaceutical industry, he said.

"With the decoding of the human genome, demand for proteins worldwide has
increased exponentially while production capacity has been falling
farther behind," Fioretti said. Industry estimates put the shortfall at
more than a million grams by 2006.

Fioretti said current production of protein pharmaceuticals typically
depends on manufacturing processes that use bacterial fermentation and
mammalian cell culture. "Costs of protein production using bio-
fermentation can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars
per gram," he said.

The TGR president said the LSU AgCenter technologies and methods can
significantly lower production costs and increase production efficiency.

"Thousands of pharmaceutical proteins can be developed in laboratories,
but researchers can't afford the next step," Cooper said. "This
technology can reduce the cost of the next step."

Cooper's technology starts by injecting a rooster with a specific DNA and
mating it with a hen. Scientists screen the offspring for the desired
protein-producing trait and cross the offspring to produce subsequent
generations that carry the trait in both males and females.

"After that, flock size can be adjusted as needed to meet demand," Cooper

"The transgenic production of human protein drugs using a chicken as a
bio-reactor in no way harms the chicken," Fioretti said. "Basically, all
we have to do is feed the chickens and collect their eggs."

TGR has leased production facilities in Wilson Hall on the LSU campus and
on the LSU AgCenter's Central Research Station in Baton Rouge to begin
initial production of the proteins.

The company estimates that by the end of 2009, it will have invested $100
million and will employ more than 500 people in well-paying technology
jobs in Louisiana.

Company officials said the poultry used in this process can be raised and
handled using accredited animal care guidelines and laboratory practices
established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. When the eggs are
laid and collected, TGR will extract the proteins and ship them to
pharmaceutical companies for final purification and processing into drugs.


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