Cell-free protein synthesis as rapid response to Covid-19
A feasibility study evaluating the qualification of cell-free protein synthesis as a platform technology for the rapid synthesis of viral proteins, including potential mutations, is in the focus of this project. The production of viral proteins in conventional cell-based processes is often limited by the negative effects of these proteins on the viability of the cells. The results are low protein yields and reduced protein quality. A further obstacle in the production of viral proteins is the high safety level in the expression of viral proteins in cell-based systems.
Cell-free protein synthesis offers a platform technology for the synthesis and characterization of difficult-to-produce proteins, as the open system can be adapted directly to the individual protein. High safety levels are not necessary due to the use of a cell lysate. Thus, in vitro protein synthesis opens up the possibility to investigate proteins of viral origin that are currently not or only inefficiently producible. The availability of a fast and efficient method to provide such viral proteins for the development of diagnostics and therapies is of crucial importance for the health care system. In the course of this start-up funding, viral proteins expressed by SARS-CoV-2 are to be produced by cell-free protein synthesis within 60-90 minutes without generating genetically modified organisms. Not only already well characterized proteins like the spike protein, but also various other viral proteins of the ORFs 1-10 are planned to be produced in cell-free synthesis. These proteins can be functionally characterized and made available to various other partners and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft as »services« for serological screening and antibody tests. Viroporin proteins in particular, such as the coronavirus envelope protein, are subjected to detailed functional analysis at the Fraunhofer IZI-BB.