News and Announcements
New Technology Forges Synergistic Relationship Between Biotech Company and University
January 20, 2008: Athena Environmental Sciences, Inc. announced today that it has signed two licensing agreements with TEC Edmonton, on behalf of The Governors of the University of Alberta, for their patented protein expression technologies. Protein expression technology is an integral part of biotechnology and is instrumental to the production of several therapeutic agents. Athena has incorporated Alberta’s new technologies into its own established protein expression systems to create a set of proprietary expression kits. The ACES™ (AthenaES™ Complete Expression System) kits were designed to fully encompass the entire expression process from building the plasmid vectors to recovery of purified product. This unique approach provides everything necessary for protein expression, thus making the process quicker and easier for the user. The first series of kits will be introduced globally through Athena Enzyme Systems™, a division devoted to supplying research reagents for pharmaceutical and industrial applications, on January 7, 2008. Despite the industry’s thirty years of success in producing recombinant proteins in E. coli, there are many proteins that cannot be produced in a functional state using traditional systems, making them impossible to research and utilize. Traditional protein expression technology involves inducing a bacterial strain (usually E. coli) to replicate a gene of interest, which in turn produces the recombinant protein of interest. Extracting this protein requires lysis or breaking apart the cells, which also releases significant amounts of contaminating proteins and DNA. Removing these contaminants is often time-consuming and costly. Dr. Joel Weiner, and Guijin Zhang from the University of Alberta, discovered that YebF, a protein with an unknown function, is transported to the outside of the cells. They further found that when other proteins were linked to YebF, these proteins could also be exported directly to the culture medium. Using this process, proteins can now be produced which could not otherwise be made in E. coli. Further, the lysis step is eliminated, keeping most of the contaminating protein and DNA within the cell walls, simplifying the purification process. Difficult-to-produce proteins can now be made and recovered with higher levels of purity due to the low levels of contaminants present in culture medium. This development allows for faster research results, saving both time and money and introducing more possibilities for research exploration. Alberta’s unique technology peaked Athena’s interest. “We’ve been in the protein production business for 14 years and the YebF technology has the potential to revolutionize how recombinant proteins are produced,” says Athena’s CEO Dr. Sheldon E. Broedel, Jr. “It overcomes several technical barriers and allows for the expression of proteins that might otherwise be impossible to obtain, a significant challenge for many of our clients and customers.” The agreements give Athena exclusive world-wide rights to the YebF technology and non-exclusive rights to the Membrane Targeting and Translocation System technology. In addition, Alberta’s technologies are getting market exposure, recognition and gaining market value in being integrated with a comprehensive series of expression kits. “TEC Edmonton is proud to play a role in helping inventors, such as Dr. Joel Weiner, and Guijin Zhang, bring their discoveries to the marketplace,” says Dr. David Cox, CEO of TEC Edmonton. “This partnership strikes the cord of our business, providing a conduit for Alberta technologies to reach beyond laboratory walls and generate commercialization success.” This integration with TEC Edmonton expands Athena’s research reagent product lines and contract services with a proprietary set of tools that enables easier and more reliable protein expression. The new ACES™ system developed by Athena will initially offer two different secretory technologies that will allow users to more accurately tailor expression to the specific attributes of their target protein. Athena plans to expand this product series to include a wide library of plasmids and accessory products to aid in the expression process. Athena Environmental Sciences, Inc., is a diversified biotechnology company, located in the UMBC Technology Center in Baltimore, MD. The company has been involved in a variety of projects including the development of biopharmaceuticals as well as industrial enzymes, the development and manufacture of environmentally safe consumer products and the discovery and development of anti-infective drugs. The Athena Enzyme Systems™ division of the company has existed almost since the company’s inception in 1994. Its mission is to accelerate the research timeline through advanced research products and contract services with an emphasis on protein expression and purification. The new ACES™ kits will join Athena’s portfolio of over 100 research products sold under the Athena Enzyme Systems™ brand name. TEC Edmonton - whose name is an acronym for its goal to support Technology, Entrepreneur and Company development - is a joint venture between the University of Alberta and the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. Located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada Dr. Joel Weiner’s University of Alberta laboratory investigates the assembly, structure and function of membrane proteins using bacterial anaerobic electron transfer enzymes as the model system. The group published their findings of the YebF protein expression technology in Nature Biotechnology in January, 2006.