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European Biopharmaceutical Review

What about Pichia?

From the list of therapeutic protein approvals, two pre-eminent hosts appear to dominate the field of recombinant protein expression: the bacterial Escherichia coli (E. coli) system and mammalian cell lines, such as Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells. Combining the advantages of these, the versatile yeast Pichia pastoris* (P. pastoris) is emerging to become a competitive alternative for biomanufacturing.

Major Player Potential


P. pastoris is an established, FDA and EMA approved, generally recognised as safe and highly competitive expression host. It has strong and effective secretory capacities, which often result in double-digit g/l levels of recombinant protein in the culture supernatant, while retaining most endogenous proteins within the cells. Delivering a secreted raw product with a high purity in the culture supernatant, P. pastoris enables simplified downstream procedures, which, when paired with cultivation processes with a high volumetric productivity, result in highly economic protein production.

This yeast combines the advantages of prokaryotes and mammalian cells: it is amenable to genetic manipulation. Pichia exhibits fast growth on cheap and chemically-defined media comparable to bacteria, together with eukaryotic features like a subcellular protein processing system that is required for post-translational modifications. Therefore, the host offers the speed and ease of highly efficient prokaryotic platforms and the secretion capabilities of mammalian expression systems, reducing the struggle for protein purification. Unlike bacterial hosts such as E. coli, no cell lysis and time-consuming isolation from a crude lysate is required to obtain the target protein in pure form. Reaction steps, like refolding from inclusion bodies, are obsolete and unwanted enzymatic side activities are minimised.

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Thomas Purkarthofer, PhD, is Head of Business Development at VTU Technology GmbH, after joining the company in 2006 to manage the start-up of VTU’s new Protein Technologies Unit. Thomas received his PhD in chemistry from Graz University of Technology, Austria, and was engaged in and managed several international industrial biotechnology R&D projects and is co-author of several peer-reviewed publications.

Iskandar Dib studied at Graz University of Technology, Austria, and the Research Center Applied Biocatalysis, Austria. After obtaining his PhD, he joined the team of VTU Technology where he is now Principal R&D Manager, Process Development and Analytics department. His areas of expertise include process development for up- and downstream processes applying DoE tools for process understanding.

Evelyn Trummer-Gödl, PhD, holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in biotechnology from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria. She has used her previous experience in industrial protein expression and cell culture to contribute to VTU’s marketing and business development team.
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Thomas Purkarthofer
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Iskandar Dib
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Evelyn Trummer-Gödl
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