Progressive start-up, Phenotypeca (Ltd), is leading the way creating new industrial strains of baker’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, for the low-cost manufacture of therapeutic proteins, vaccines and diagnostics.
Founded in late 2018, Nottingham-based Phenotypeca, is an early-stage biotechnology company creating the next generation of a manufacturing technology, which has been used safely for over 35-years to make efficacious biopharmaceuticals, such as insulins and vaccines. Their long-term mission is to improve access to these life-saving medicines and treatments, by making them more affordable to those who need them, including in low and middle-income countries.
Phenotypeca has offices in BioCity Nottingham, a leading UK life-science incubator based in the former Boots facility in Pennyfoot Street, and research facilities in the University of Nottingham’s Synthetic Biology Research Centre in the Biodiscovery Institute on the University Park Campus. “Nottingham is the ideal base for Phenotypeca; with its strong tradition in the manufacture of yeast-derived biologics; started by Delta Biotechnology in the 1980s and continued today by Albumedix Ltd; and outstanding life-science research in our local Universities”, says Dr Chris Finnis, Phenotypeca’s co-founder and Research Director.
Phenotypeca’s research combines proven industrial manufacturing technology with the natural yeast breeding methods developed by Professor Ed Louis, Phenotypeca’s Chief Scientist, initially at the University of Nottingham and later at the University of Leicester. Published in the scientific journal Nature in 2009, Professor Louis described the genomic and phenotypic diversity of yeast strains collected from distinct ecological niches around the world. This showed that the first-generation of yeast used to manufacture biologics were all closely related and that there was significant genetic diversity still to be explored. Phenotypeca has now made libraries of around one billion genetically different yeast strains, from where novel strains are selected with improved properties, or “phenotypes”, compared to those used in existing biomanufacturing processes, and to the wider collection of isolates. These may be improvements in product yield or for more environmentally sustainable and economic processes.
Phenotypeca is uniquely positioned to achieve its business ambitions, with an experienced team of industrial and academic scientists and business leaders, who have over 200 years collective experience in advanced genomics, molecular biology and bioprocess design. Phenotypeca applies proprietary methods, developed using modern genomics and rational synthetic biology techniques, allowing them to improve production strains, often in weeks or months, instead of years using traditional approaches. Genomic analysis then identifies the underlying causes of the improvements seen, thus enabling the rational design of the future industrial strains.
Phenotypeca was founded after realising there was a massive opportunity in the biopharmaceuticals market. Currently, there is a limited number of first-generation yeast strains optimised for biopharmaceutical product manufacturing. Yields and performance from existing yeast platforms are often low or of poor quality and alternative production systems can be too expensive or inconvenient by comparison. Therefore, improvements are needed to meet the UK and overseas demand for medicines, such as vaccines and antibody therapies, at the right scale and cost. Phenotypeca has been awarded multiple grants from leading scientific bodies, including Innovate UK and The Future Vaccine Manufacturing Research Hub (Vax-Hub), for projects to improve the production of SARS-CoV-2 antigens and lower the cost of producing virus-like particle vaccines. This is a testament to Phenotypeca’s ongoing commitment to improving access to life-saving medicines and promoting sustainable manufacturing using baker’s yeast as a microbial cell factory.