BEVS
Baculovirus Expression Vector System




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The enabling technology called the Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS) for the safe, abundant and rapid production of recombinant proteins in insect cells and insects was pioneered in the laboratory of Dr. Max D. Summers (US Patent No. 4,745,051: Method for Producing a Recombinant baculovirus Expression Vector. (Smith/Summers) (Granted May 17, 1988).  This system was developed from basic studies of insect pathogenic viruses for pest control of medically and agriculturally important insects.  More specifically, the technology was the result of the identification, cloning and genetic engineering of a baculovirus gene which expresses very abundant quantities of a viral-encoded protein in infected insect cells.  The virus, insect cells and insects are all sources for expression and recombinant protein production which do not represent potential harm or threat to man, plants or animals.  The BEVS is a discovery with very broad enabling applications and impact spanning the basic life sciences and biotechnology.  The BEVS has become a core technology for: 1) the cloning and expression of genes for study of protein structure, processing and function; 2) the production of biochemical reagents; 3) the study of regulation of gene expression; 4) the commercial exploration, development and production of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; 5) drug discovery research; 6) the exploration and development of safer, more selective and environmentally compatible biopesticides consistent with sustainable agriculture.  As stated in a recent meeting review, “ The immediate challenge created by the genomics era is the production of the novel proteins to understand their function.   Due to its advantages in versatility and speed, the Baculovirus expression system of choice in the future given the large number of products already in clinical development and the recent achievements in increasing the expression levels in this system” In addition, the scientific and biotechnology literature records many significant original advances in biology, molecular biology and biochemistry from the use of the BEVS resulting from the cloning, production and study of more than 1000 eukaryotic, prokaryotic and viral recombinant proteins (search http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?db=PubMed, using keywords, BEVS or Baculovirus).  And, the BEVS and its applications for discovery, development and commercial production areas of medicine and agriculture are responsible for the commercial development of many new biotechnology initiatives and activities in established and start-up industries worldwide- USA, Europe, Japan, Australia.

Studies of proteins for the development of drug therapies, vaccines, and insights into biological function depend upon the ability to produce large amounts of structurally complex proteins.  It is important that these proteins are biologically active, processed correctly, assume a native shape, and locate to the proper place in the cell.  The inability to generate large quantities of structurally complex eukaryotic proteins with these characteristics was a major stumbling block for many years. Who would have thought that these problems would be largely overcome by insights derived from studies of a virus that infects insects?  And the use of such insights to develop the Baculovirus Expression Vector System (BEVS).  This system is capable of generating large quantities of biologically active recombinant protein inexpensively and quickly.  To date, over a thousand proteins have been expressed using the BEVS, with 98% being biologically active.

The BEVS represents a core technology that has greatly facilitated the understanding of many proteins from species that span the life sciences.  These studies have broad applications and impact in basic research and practical medical applications for both humans and animals.  One example of the application and efficiency of the BEVs was the rapid development of an experimental vaccine to the deadly Hong Kong “bird-flu” virus (HSN1).  Another was the rapid development of SARS vaccine.  NIH requested the development of a vaccine and Protein Sciences (a company that specializes in BEVS technology) delivered 1700 doses of an experimental “bird-flu” vaccine within eight weeks.  This included the time to identify, sequence and clone the gene responsible for the flu symptoms.  The efficiency, low cost and large-scale production of proteins using BEVS represents breakthrough technology that is facilitating high-throughput proteomic studies.  The BEVS is being used widely in drug discovery and the development of protein crystals of medically important proteins.  With the knowledge of the 3-dimensional structure, precise design of drugs that will act as ‘magic bullets’ for the intervention of many diseases states is currently underway both in the private sector and academia.

The important and broad acceptance of the BEVS technology is reflected in its acceptance in both the academic community and private sector. The broad recognition and acceptance by the scientific community is reflected in the determination by The Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) that Dr. Summers is one of the top 250 most highly cited microbiologists in the world. Acceptance of the BEVS by the private sector is reflected by the commercial licenses worldwide that are held for the BEVS technology (currently >70).  Thousands of laboratories currently use the BEVS technology in their research programs.