Donald Jarvis, professor of molecular biology at the University of Wyoming, asserts that production of glycosylated proteins in yeast must still overcome steep hurdles, because firms have heavily invested in mammalian cell lines. "Many large biotech companies are dedicated to recombinant glycoprotein producing in CHO [(Chinese hamster ovary)] and other mammalian cell lines," Jarvis says. "These companies have mammalian cell strains that can produce large amounts of at least some glycoproteins, they have huge investments in infrastructure, they have FDA approval for their processes, and they have a comfort zone with these systems. In my experience, this will be difficult to overcome."
Jarvis, however, acknowledges the possibility that alternative technologies may play a role and has himself published papers on glycoprotein production using insect cells. Commercialization, however, lags behind GlycoFi's work. From university campus to giant pharma subsidiary, the GlycoFi experience demonstrates that the esoteric endeavor of applying gene manipulation to the biology of sugars holds the potential of providing enabling methods for a new generation of biotechnology drugs--and an outsized deposit slip for venture capital investors.