Apollo Life Sciences’ CEO John Priest says that the company’s human proteins are unique in the way they help stem cells to develop into specific cell types such as heart, nerve and muscle cells.
“Stem cells are basic cells that are not fully developed, so getting them to mature into specific cell types and controlling their growth is a tricky business. A percentage of stem cells will often develop in the wrong way, which is a problem when researchers want a large number of cells to grow in unison,” said Mr Priest.
Human proteins are used in research because they provide greater control over stem cell growth and also work faster than non-human proteins.
Mr Priest said that a recent study by Apollo showed that two of its human proteins were over 50 per cent more effective than proteins produced from bacteria in stimulating the growth of haematopoietic (blood-producing) stem cells.
“Proteins from human cells are more likely to be recognised by developing human stem cells than proteins derived from other sources. Human proteins also offer the advantage that they will not cause cross-species contamination when used to culture human adult or embryonic stem cells,” he said.
Apollo claims to markets the world’s largest range of human cell-expressed proteins – it currently offers over 92 for sale and exports to the United States, Japan, United Kingdom and EU. The market for research proteins was estimated at US$600 million per annum in 2006, with the market for protein therapeutics estimated at US$57 billion per annum.
Professor Roger Daly from the Garvan Institute of Medical Research said that Apollo's range of human cell-expressed proteins exhibit enhanced activity compared with those produced in non-human systems, suggesting that they will be of great value in stem cell research.
“Ultimately this technology could lead to novel treatments for important human diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” he said.
Professor Alan Trounson from Monash University’s Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories and a member of Apollo’s Scientific Advisory Panel said the synthesis of proteins from human cells is of vital importance for other areas of research, especially in investigations concerning human diseases.
“Using proteins from non-human sources to research human diseases is not as biologically relevant as using human proteins. Medical research is complex on its own right and removing obstacles will increase the chances of unique discoveries,” he said.