Functional genome annotation

Recombinant proteins are used to treat many diseases, such as cancer and diabetes and their current annual revenue amounts to >100 billion US$. These recombinant proteins are produced by overexpressing them in mammalian cell lines grown in large bioreactors, which is a cumbersome and costly process. A major determinant of protein expression – and therefore of revenue per production round – is the gene promoter used to drive the expression of the recombinant protein. The current industry workhorse is the strong viral-derived CMV promoter. However, a major drawback of the CMV promoter is that it suffers from progressive inactivation because of its viral origin, complicating the establishment of producer clones and negatively impacting protein yields. Currently, alternative non-viral promoters are hardly used because of their comparatively low expression levels.

We have developed a platform to screen for strong promoters which has a throughput that is 100-1000 times larger than rival platforms. In a proof-of-concept study it enabled us to identify promoters in the human genome that showed more stable and 3-fold higher protein production levels than the benchmark CMV promoter. We are currently applying our method to identify promoters in Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells, the most commonly used protein production platform. Our proof-of-concept data in human cells has already convinced companies of the potential of our approach, and based on this we are currently building alliances to test our promoters in a real-life industrial setting as well as alliances aimed at taking us closer to a customer base.

Our long term vision is to evolve into the highest quality provider of gene expression solutions, not only for the recombinant protein market, but also for human gene-therapy strategies.

In summary, Gen-X is a biotechnology company offering next generation gene promoters to maximize production of any recombinant protein of interest.

Joris van Arensbergen
Startup activities

Venture Challenge Fall 2016