MUCIN BIOTECHNOLOGY

In parallel with our work in basic sciences, we also prioritize the evolution of our conceptual understanding and approaches for biopolymer synthesis into useful biotechnologies.  Applications of our technologies range from anti-stick biopolymer coatings on mammalian cells for reduced aggregation in bioreactors to efficient design and manufacturing of biopolymer lubricants for joint disease, dry eye syndrome, and other biomedical challenges.

One of our notable stories of success has been in the design and large-scale synthesis of recombinant mucin products. Therapeutic and commercial interest in recombinant mucins has existed for decades due to the unique ability of mucins to hydrate, protect, and lubricate biological surfaces. In collaboration with the Reesink lab, we've recently developed several engineered variants of an important mucin-based lubricant called lubricin.  We are actively investigating our engineered lubricins (eLubricins) as solutions for dry eye disease, surgical adhesions, osteoarthritis, and biocompatible coatings for materials. 

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Engineered lubricants

We are fabricating mucin-based biolubricants

The We use synthetic biology coupled with modern glycoengineering to design and manufactured advanced lubricants for biomedical challenges, ranging from joint disease to dry eye syndrome. As an example, our lubricin-inspired macromolecule combines a hydrating mucin polymer with "sticky" protein domains that bind the macromolecule to tissue surfaces. 

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Clinical translation

We are working on bringing new therapeutics to the clinic

With our clinical collaborators, we are working on translation of our basic science into clinical application. Our engineered lubricants show excellent long-term retention and stability in the joint following injection. 

Improved biomanufacturing

We are making improved cellular platforms for biomanufacturing

Viral delivery systems lie at the heart of cutting-edge gene therapies that hold promise for curing some genetic diseases with a single treatment. However, the difficulty and cost of viral manufacturing remains a major bottleneck in rollout of new therapies.  To combat this problem, we are working on engineered cellular systems for more efficient and less onerous viral manufacturing. One problem is that the human cells used to manufacture viruses tend to clump together, limiting their growth and productivity.  As a solution, we have developed genetically encoded polymer coatings that reduce the stickiness of cells.  Our genetically modified cells are seen in the test tube on the left as a uniform suspension. In contrast, unmodified cells in the middle test tube and those treated with an industry-standard "anti-clump" treatment in the right tube are clumped together in large aggregates that fall from solution