MSU researchers invent protein purifier to aid drug development

Developing pharmaceutical drugs is a lengthy and expensive process. Thanks to the work of two Michigan State University researchers, however, pharmaceutical companies could save time and money with a newly invented protein purifier.

For 15 years, MSU chemists Merlin Bruening and Greg Baker have been working on ways to improve the process of isolating a single, desired protein from other proteins. Separating these pure proteins is a necessary step to increase drug effectiveness and safety, and Bruening and Baker hope that making the process more efficient will help manufacturers deliver new drugs to consumers more quickly as well as reduce costs. 

The goal was a lofty one, but after so many years of working, a little bit of luck helped the researchers make a breakthrough. 

“Sometimes you get lucky or have a bit of serendipity,” says Baker. “We changed some of the conditions we used to make membrane and suddenly things got really nice."

The details of the invention appeared in a recent issue of the journal Langmuir and they demonstrate that high-performance membranes are highly suitable for protein purification. Though the invention has the potential to have a great impact on the industry, several steps remain before it makes its commercial debut.

“A provisional patent has been filed,” says Baker. “The next step is that we’d like to make it cheap enough so you can throw the membrane away at the end. If we can make it a little bit cheaper yet it can be even better.”
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