University of Kent team develop ground-breaking bio-technology to revolutionise health and energy

Bioscientists from the University of Kent have made a landmark research breakthrough in synthetic biology that could help support the NHS and UK healthcare industry by making protein-based therapeutics and diagnostic devices faster and more efficiently.

Working with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, a world leading contract development and manufacturing organization for biologics, vaccines, and advanced therapies, and with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the team from Kent’s School of Biosciences developed a pioneering application for creating proteins. The innovation will improve yield, speed and efficiencies in the biotechnology industry to create proteins by using bacteria, which are simple cells relatively easy to work with.

This new technology enables scientists to reprogram a cell to direct the packaging of specific molecules into a separate structure, known as a vesicle, which is then exported out of the cell.  The new process will significantly expand the use of bacteria in protein production, as it rapidly packages toxic proteins into contained environments before they have a chance to harm any normal metabolic activities. The process also makes it easier to purify the manufactured proteins– meaning the process can be scaled up for industry more easily and consistently.

This controlled packaging into membrane vesicles will allow biologists to create a plethora of new technologies which could be applied in both biotechnology and medical industries generating simple vehicles for drug and vaccine deliveries to patients, as well as  generating novel energy technologies such as hydrogen power.  Additionally, it can increase the yield of the proteins more than 100-fold as well as making packaging the proteins in a more stable environment – which protects from cellular proteases and protects the cell from toxic products.

”This is a landmark moment for biotherapeutics” said Professor Dan Mulvihill, who led the research. “Our patented technology will improve efficiencies in creating and storing recombinant proteins, which have a range of uses from antibodies to energy production.  This most recent funding from BBSRC and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies is a testament to the importance of this project and the progress we have already made. It will enable us to continue to develop more ground-breaking technology that will have a real-world impact on business, health, and society,” continued Mulvihill.

“FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies is committed to working with academia to advance research in manufacturing and developing biotherapeutics, as well as innovating novel drug delivery mechanisms,” said Paul Found, chief operating officer, UK, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies. “Our partnership with the University of Kent is helping to ready the next generation of talent for our industry, as well as offering innovations that advance our industry and healthcare.”

Following on from the initial BBSRC grant, the Kent based researchers continue to secure funding for the project, including a recently announced further £1.1 million grant match funded between the BBSRC and FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies.

A short animated video explaining the research:

The research paper “High yield vesicle packaged recombinant protein production from E. coli” is published in Cell Reports Methods. doi:

Find out more on Twitter: @LabMulvihill and @FujifilmDiosyn.