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Lab and ÄKTA equipment at MPE Core Facility
Lab and ÄKTA equipment at MPE Core Facility
Photo: Charbel Sader
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New National Research Infrastructure Coordinated by Core Facilities

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A new nationally distributed research infrastructure – Protein Production Sweden (PPS) – will start up in the beginning of 2022. The Swedish Research Council has granted financing for a five-year period, until 2026. Five universities form the infrastructure and offer expert competence in various techniques of protein production. Researchers across Sweden will get access via a joint hub and will have the possibility to get support based on their research needs.

The five universities that are part of the infrastructure are the University of Gothenburg (host), Lund University, Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Umeå University.

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Malin Bäckström, manager of MPE Core Facility
Malin Bäckström, manager of MPE Core Facility

“Each university's protein platform specializes in a specific expression system - ie technology for producing protein - and we can therefore complement each other and also accept more projects together than individually” said Malin Bäckström, manager at Mammalian Protein Expression (MPE) who will also lead the national infrastructure’s work.

For researchers who are new to the field

With the new infrastructure, Malin hopes that also researchers that are not familiar with protein production or do not have in-depth knowledge of proteins, will be able to use the possibilities.

“You do not need to have much of your own experience of protein chemistry to ask us for support for your project, we will guide you to the right way to produce the protein that you need” Malin said.

Biomedical researchers, for example, is a large user group for the proteins produced at the unit that Malin leads. She sees an increased interest both locally and nationally in complex and also post-translationally modified proteins, which can be produced in mammalian cells.

“A common usage is that you want to perform cryo-EM at SciLifeLab, or produce a viral protein that can be used in diagnostics or research. The actual protein material is produced by us at MPE and can then be used for further work.”

The range of services expanded

The new national platform has its origin in a nearly ten-year-old cooperation between the universities. The difference now is that the collaboration will have a more formal structure, the range of services will be expanded, and support becomes available to all researchers regardless of which university you belong to.

“PPS will produce proteins in bacteria, insect cells and mammalian cells, which are the most common ways. We are also expanding our range and adding production in yeast cells, plant cells and also an in vitro system where we do not use cells at all but produce the proteins in test tubes” Malin said and added: “Different proteins have different properties and need to be produced in different ways.”

Another important difference is that the new national infrastructure can provide support to all researchers based on equal conditions, for example in terms of costs.

Still easy to get in touch

When asked if researchers at GU will now have a detour reaching the local protein production at Core Facilities, Malin says that on the contrary, it will be easier.

“We will off course keep our good and close contacts with our local researchers at GU. The advantage is that, instead of rejecting projects, we will be able to send them to our partner universities in case we cannot take on the task ourselves, and researchers will thereby get more easy access to facilities at the other universities” Malin said.

Facts: Protein Production Sweden (PPS)

The Swedish Research Council (VR) has granted just over SEK 8.5 million per year during five years for the formation of a national infrastructure for protein production. VR has given high grades to the application, among other things highlighting the effect on both research and society. Benefits are seen particularly for improved treatment of diseases and for the pharmaceutical industry.

The five universities behind the infrastructure called Protein Production Sweden are Karolinska Institutet, Umeå University, Lund University, KTH and the University of Gothenburg which also hosts and leads the work. The plan is that the infrastructure will be up and running in early 2022.

The various units have specialized knowledge and will offer protein production in:

  • E-.coli (Karolinska Institutet and Umeå University)
  • Insect cells (Lund University)
  • Mammalian cells (University of Gothenburg and KTH)
  • Yeast cells (University of Gothenburg)
  • Plant cells (Umeå University)
  • in vitro methods (University of Gothenburg)

Unlike other infrastructures, such as BioMS or NMI, PPS is not an instrument-heavy facility. The funds applied for are therefore primarily used to increase the staff at each unit in order to offer broad research support and to build up a strong national competence centre.