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Improving gene expression via Massively Parallel Synonymous Codon Variant Screening

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 1R43GM135955-01
Agency Tracking Number: R43GM135955
Amount: $298,634.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: 400
Solicitation Number: PA18-574
Timeline
Solicitation Year: 2018
Award Year: 2020
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2020-03-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2021-02-28
Small Business Information
25571 CLAWITER RD
Hayward, CA 94545-2740
United States
DUNS: 052917593
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 KEITH WYCOFF
 (510) 887-1461
 kwycoff@planetbiotechnology.com
Business Contact
 ELLIOTT FINEMAN
Phone: (510) 887-1461
Email: efineman@planetbiotechnology.com
Research Institution
N/A
Abstract

Our overall goal is to reduce to practice an innovative new method for empirically identifying the optimal
codon usage for any gene where the intent is to maximize protein accumulation, in either heterologous or
homologous expression systems. In this Phase I project we explain how this method will work and demonstrate
its usefulness by identifying highly expressing codon variants of a human Factor IX gene in both plant and
mammalian expression systems. Our method is based on the observation that there is a high degree of correlation
between accumulation of mRNA and protein in our plant transient expression system and there is literature
support for such a correlation in mammalian and yeast systems as well. We recently found that when four
divergent synonymous codon variants of one immunoglobulin heavy chain were expressed together in the same
plant, the relative abundance of the four mRNAs was a close match for their relative abundance when expressed
separately. From this we conceived of a new method that we call Massively Parallel Synonymous Codon Variant
Screening (MPSCVS), which should allow the comparison of a very large number of different gene variants in a
single experiment.Demonstration of our system will begin with a library of approximately 59,000 synonymous codon variants
of Factor IX in an adeno-associated virus (AAV) gene therapy vector. We will use the AAV library to transduce
the livers of mice in vivo. RNA will be isolated from the mouse livers. We will subclone an aliquot of the library into
a plant expression vector and use that to transform Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which is used for plant (Nicotiana
benthamiana) transformation. We will express the library transiently in tobacco leaves, harvest leaf tissue and
isolate total RNA. The mRNA from both plants and human cells will be used to produce double stranded cDNA,
which will be “counted” by next generation sequencing to identify the most abundant mRNAs in both systems.
Clones of high-expressing codon variants will be tested for protein and RNA expression individually in the
appropriate expression system. We will then analyze the degree of correlation between RNA and protein
expression and determine the overall efficiency of MPSCVS in identifying the best expressing variants.Improving protein expression is of considerable practical importance in every
recombinant protein production platform, and many researchers have found that codon
usage and its impact on mRNA levels plays a crucial role in maximizing expression. We
have developed an innovative new method for empirically identifying the optimal codon
usage for any gene where the intent is to maximize protein accumulation, in either
heterologous or homologous expression systems. Commercialization of this system will
impact recombinant protein production for recombinant therapeutics, gene therapy,
vaccines and any application that depends on optimizing protein production in vitro or in
vivo.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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