MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center collaborates with Pfizer to advance synthetic biology research in drug discovery and development
Today, MIT’s Synthetic Biology Center (MIT SBC) announced a collaboration with Pfizer Inc. that is designed to translate leading discoveries in synthetic biology to advance drug discovery and development technologies. This three-year research collaboration spans multiple therapeutic areas at Pfizer and involves several core investigators within the MIT SBC. The MIT SBC is an interdisciplinary research and educational initiative of the Department of Biological Engineering, which integrates faculty from other MIT departments.
In its first 30 years, biotechnology has provided the basic methodology for producing life-saving protein medicines in cells. However, the bio-manufacturing process can be time-consuming and costly, and has remained largely unchanged since the earliest product approvals. There is an opportunity to re-evaluate standard operations, identify areas for improvement, and develop methodologies that potentially may make the biopharmaceutical value chain more cost-efficient.
The emerging field of synthetic biology leverages current biotech efforts and integrates them with systems biology theory to establish a new paradigm of engineering biopharmaceuticals with a computational system. By applying computer science and design engineering concepts to biological systems, synthetic biologists are creating molecular and computational tools that enable precise regulation of cellular and genetic processes. The ability to use synthetic biology parts as “programmable entities” presents an opportunity to potentially create a new biotechnology process that is more likely to promote innovation, accelerate discovery, reduce clinical failures, and ultimately be more cost-efficient. The synthetic biology technologies anticipated for development in this collaboration between the MIT SBC and Pfizer include methods for cellular genome engineering to support next-generation protein expression systems.