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Rosetta Green to Examine Whether Algae Can Produce Therapeutic Protein


By Doug Macron

Rosetta Green announced this week that it has begun exploring whether it can adapt microalgae to produce the recombinant protein alpha-GAL A as a treatment for Fabry disease.

The program marks an expansion of Rosetta Green's focus, which has primarily been on improving crop traits and algae for biofuel production. However, according to CTO Rudy Maor, “we have a lot of experience generally with microRNAs, and also with algae … [which] we believe has a lot of potential as a platform for expressing recombinant proteins.”

Fabry disease is characterized by a deficiency of the enzyme alpha galactosidase A, which plays a role in the metabolism of lipids. According to the National Institutes of Health, patients with the disease experience harmful accumulations of lipids in the eyes, kidneys, and the nervous and cardiovascular systems. It is currently treated by enzyme replacement.

Maor said that while he is unaware of any companies that have commercialized therapeutic proteins produced in algae, various groups have explored the use of algae to produce recombinant proteins and antibodies.

Given the promising results Rosetta Green has had with identifying miRNAs that show potential in improving drought tolerance in potatoes (GSN 3/10/2011) and boosting corn tolerance to environmental stress (GSN 5/19/2011), as well as ongoing efforts to develop new algae strains for biofuel production, the company decided to see if it can leverage its know-how for therapeutic protein production, he noted.

“Would it be possible to increase the yield of any compounds produced by algae, including recombinant proteins ... [and] if so, can we use microRNAs to do that?” he said. “These are thoughts we're having.”

Maor cautioned that the alpha-GAL A program is still in its infancy, and that Rosetta Green is still mostly focused on agbio and biofuels. With an eye toward eventually being able to test the biological activity of algae-produced a-GAL A, “we'll just have to see how [protein production] fits into the priorities of the company.”

“We'll have to make decisions as we go and as results come in,” he said.

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