Agilent Technologies, University of Rouen and A*STAR’s Bioprocessing Technology Institute to Further Innovation in Biopharmaceuticals and Glycomics
24 May 2013

Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A), the Glyco-MEV laboratory at the University of Rouen, in France, and the Bioprocessing Technology Institute at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), in Singapore, have signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in order to develop tools to effectively analyze biologics and vaccines.

Biologics are molecules such as antibodies and other recombinant protein-based therapeutics. Used in combination with vaccines, they can prevent or treat a variety of serious medical conditions such as cancers, immune disorders and infectious diseases that affect millions of people annually. These therapeutic agents are typically produced by bioprocesses using living cells as factories for their production.

Unlike small molecule drugs, biologics produced by cells are typically more heterogeneous in structure, most notably in glycosylation, which is the modification of protein drugs by sugars (also known as glycans). Sugars are known to prolong the half-life of biologic drugs and thereby reduce the frequency and dosage of drugs given to human patients.

A*STAR’s Bioprocessing Technology Institute will join forces with the University of Rouen’s Glyco-MEV laboratory and Agilent to develop innovative analytical techniques to ensure that these biologics are safe and effective. BTI is currently working to develop methods of producing and analyzing these biologics in animal cells while Glyco-MEV laboratory specializes in the production of those molecules in plant systems.

This strategic partnership strengthens the collaboration between BTI and Glyco-MEV laboratory and is enhanced by Agilent’s technological expertise to develop new, sensitive and high-throughput methodologies that are particularly adapted to the analysis of biopharmaceuticals. In addition, the Glyco-MEV laboratory will be Agilent’s glycomics reference site in Europe, and BTI will be its glycomics reference site for Southeast Asia.

Professor Lam Kong Peng, executive director of BTI, said, “With increasing use of biologics to treat human diseases and with more biosimilars coming to market in the next few years, it is timely for BTI to develop novel technologies that would improve the characterization and analysis of protein-based drugs. This collaboration would enhance Singapore’s reputation as a world-class destination for biologics manufacturing and R&D.”

“This collaboration will enhance our international expertise with regards to the glycan analysis and engineering of biopharmaceuticals produced in plant and microalgae cells,” said Prof Patrice Lerouge, director of the Glyco-MEV laboratory. “We also hope that such a research initiative will facilitate exchanges of lab members and PhD students between Singapore and France.”

“This research initiative enables scientists to optimize glycan analytical workflows on the Agilent HPLC-Chip/MS system,” said Dr. Rudolf Grimm, Agilent’s director of science and technology and manager of collaborations in the Asia-Pacific region. “We look forward to working with these leading organizations to drive discovery in this important field.”

About the Glyco-MEV laboratory, University of Rouen

Research projects in the laboratory Glycobiologie et Matrice Extracellulaire Végétale aim at elucidating the function and biosynthesis of glycoproteins and polysaccharides in higher plants and microalgae. We focus mainly, through reverse genetic approaches, on the function of polysaccharides in relation with plant development and morphogenesis. Another aspect of our research activity deals with defense mechanisms occurring specifically in root border cells with the ultimate goal of identifying novel molecules able to stimulate the plant immunity against pathogens. Finally, we also investigate the protein glycosylation processing in higher plants and microalgae by studying N-glycan pathways, glycosyltransferase activities and their Golgi localisation. Since plants and microalgae synthesize N-glycans that are immunogenic in humans, the aim of this topic is to engineer the endogenous processing to produce in glycoproteins carrying human-compatible glycosylation patterns.

For more information about the University of Rouen and the Glyco-MEV laboratory, please visit their respective webpages: www.univ-rouen.fr/ and www.univ-rouen.fr/Glyco-MEV/Englishversion/Home.html/.

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Michelle Maxwell
Drug Discovery Editor