Lör 2 mar / År 42 / Nr 5 2023

Using insect cells in biotechnology for better protein production

ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies ApS is a contract research organisation and vaccine development company with a protein expression platform based on drosophila S2 cells. The company’s proprietary ExpreS2 platform plays a key role in drug discovery, R&D, GMP manufacturing and in human clinical trials.

ExpreS2ion Biotechnologies ApS was founded in 2010 to optimise and commercialise the ExpreS2 protein expression platform developed by the Danish company Pharmexa A/S. ExpreS2ion is based at the DTU Science Park in Horsholm, Denmark.
“ExpreS2ion grew out of our founders’ expertise in protein expression, production and vaccine development. We started from a small place, but we are now gaining traction and getting repeat business for our services,” said Bent U. Frandsen, chief business officer.
ExpreS2ion is built around the proprietary ExpreS2 non-viral insect cell expression platform consisting of Drosophila S2 cells, optimised expression vectors and transfection reagent, and nearly 20 years hands-on experience with the platform. It provides high protein expression levels with high batch to batch consistency in a very short time frame. Most often, ExpreS2 can express proteins when other systems fail.
ExpreS2ion has a number of arms: Cell line development, protein expression and purification services using ExpreS2, which is also an excellent platform for vaccine development with collaborators/customers, as well as its own pipeline of projects through the company’s joint venture, AdaptVac. The patent for the ExpreS2 platform is granted in all major markets, including EU, USA, China, and India, and was further approved in Canada in May 2018.
In early 2018, ExpreS2ion launched a rights issue, which was almost 60% oversubscribed, providing funding for investment in the core business area and for future investments in new business opportunities for both ExpreS2ion and AdaptVac.

Here to solve biopharma’s protein challenges
ExpreS2ion provides a range of services based on its protein expression platform. These include feasibility studies confirming that proteins can be expressed by ExpreS2, protein production and purification, process development, and the provision of R&D proteins. A project typically starts with a DNA sequence and moves through cloning into ExpreS2 vectors, screening and expression tests, through establishment of stable cell lines and providing production and purification batches, to scale up and developing cGMP (good manufacturing practice)-compatible processes.
In December 2017, ExpreS2ion signed a collaboration agreement with Intravacc (the Institute for Translational Vaccinology, the Netherlands), making Intravacc a preferred GMP partner to ExpreS2ion. Following this, in May 2018, ExpreS2ion announced a collaboration with GenIbet Biopharmaceuticals, Portugal, to add additional vaccine development and GMP manufacturing capabilities consolidating ExpreS2ion’s position as a full-service provider from discovery to early clinical development.
U.S. partner and licensee Integrated BioTherapeutics launched the first ExpreS2ion-based protein to reach the market in April 2018. This is an Ebola virus glycoprotein, and was followed by a Zika virus antigen in September 2018. Integrated BioTherapeutics plans to launch around five research products each year.
“Applying ExpreS2 is fast, which is advantageous because speed is important in research. The time from DNA to stable cell line and material can be as little as three weeks. Our platform has been approved for clinical applications,” said Frandsen.
ExpreS2ion has more than 90 different partners and customers in biotech, big pharma, medtech, diagnostics and academia, e.g. Roche, Idorsia, and University of Oxford. The company has made over 300 proteins and virus-like particles for clients to date, with over half targeting parasites and viruses for use in vaccines. Other applications include toll-like receptors, cytokines and enzymes. Recombinant TLR7 and TLR8 produced using ExpreS2 can be purchased directly from ExpreS2ion. The company also offers licenses to ExpreS2 for use in house.
A number of vaccines developed using ExpreS2 have moved into preclinical and clinical development with partners and collaborators, validating the Company’s platform. Abivax (France) entered a commercial license agreement to use ExpreS2 for its preclinical ABX544 Ebola prophylactic and therapeutic anti-serum programme. ExpreS2ion is engaged in two malaria programs that have moved into clinical trials: a blood stage malaria vaccine candidate developed by the University of Oxford/Jenner institute (phase II), and a placental malaria vaccine candidate in collaboration with University of Tübingen and University of Copenhagen (Phase II).

Building a pipeline through a joint venture
AdaptVac, established in 2017, combines the advantages of the ExpreS2 platform and NextGen’s virus-like particle (VLP) technology. The lead candidate, AV001, is a HER-2 VLP protein using ExpreS2 for protein production. AV001 is currently in preclinical development against breast cancer. In an animal model, the vaccine candidate was able to both prevent and treat breast cancer. In September 2018, AdaptVac received notice of allowance in the U.S. for its breast cancer vaccine.
“What makes the AdaptVac vaccines different is that they deliver the right protein to the right target by using VLP technology , which gives a better uptake,” said Frandsen.