Change is under way at Pfenex as the company works to expand its bacterial-based protein-expression system. Originally used to manufacture biotherapeutics, vaccines, and protein-based reagents, Pfenex had been working with companies to express a protein of interest for late-stage clinical development. Now the company is exploring how the system can be used for discovery.
“In our initial business model, we developed a production strain and licensed it back to the client for production of clinical materials and commercial products,” explains Patrick Lucy, vp of business development at Pfenex.
But when Bertrand Liang, M.D., Ph.D., joined Pfenex in 2009 as CEO, he scrutinized the company’s business model. A veteran of big biotech, Dr. Liang recognized that protein-expression problems are not limited to clinical development, but start back in the early drug discovery phase.
Accordingly, Pfenex has repositioned its protein-expression technology to support early-stage challenges related to the discovery of large and small molecules. Discovery scientists want to move programs forward rapidly to increase the value of a company’s pipeline while minimizing costs. “To do this, scientists need soluble, active protein on demand,” says Lucy.