Research Stories

“In vitro functional protein expression using messenger RNA hydrogel" Professor Soong Ho Um(Chemical Engineering)

- It makes RNA itself overcome RNA intrinsic limitations such as precise structure formation and stability - It mass-produces the desired functional proteins at low costs within a short period of time - It is published in the top-classified, world-renowned journal, Advanced Materials (IF = 30.849) -Research in collaboration with a nucleic acid nanotechnology company, Progeneer incorporation

Chemical Engineering
So Yeon Ahn, Jeonghun Kim

  • “In vitro functional protein expression using messenger RNA hydrogel" Professor Soong Ho Um(Chemical Engineering)
  • “In vitro functional protein expression using messenger RNA hydrogel" Professor Soong Ho Um(Chemical Engineering)
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On April 5, a research paper titled "Protein-encoding free-standing RNA hydrogel for sub-compartmentalized translation," written by Professor Soong Ho Um in the school of Chemical Engineering, was published online in the Advanced Materials (IF =30.849) as a cover paper in recognition of its excellence.

The research study was conducted in collaboration with Progeneer Inc., a domestic bio-venture company, and it is expected to be used in various biopharmaceutical fields such as cytokine for several medical uses and personalized new drugs because of the outstanding advantages of being able to produce large amounts of functional proteins in a short time.

The team has created a new messenger RNA hydrogel structure with physiological and chemical functions by applying the rolling circle transcription and regularly arranging nucleic acid quadruple helical structures based on nucleic acid nanotechnology.

RNA plays a pivotal role in regulating and expressing biological activity in vivo, but it is unstable and not easy to produce the desired design. In a situation where these serious and essential limitations are pointed out, this study suggests a wise solution.

The team’s research has proved that the biological regulator role of natural RNAs, such as enzyme catalyst action and protein synthesis, is possible outside of cells through bio-inspiration. This technology has exactly reproduced the ‘Spatiotemporal RNA-derived RNA phase transformation’ that occurs in the translation process of the central dogma process, the central principle of life, and thus enabled protein mass-production through gel internal compartmentalization.

Since the 1950s, by “cell-free protein expression” technology, protein production could be done outside the cell. With the rapid development of the modern biopharmaceutical market, this is receiving global attention. 

This study has also contributed to significantly maximizing the efficiency, which is a fatal disadvantage of cell-free protein expression technology. Also, the gel form of RNA is made possible for the first time, and the RNA having various functions secures the high mechanical property. This result suggests the possibility of developing new materials equipped with genetic information. The research’s universal applicability, which solves the fundamental issue of RNA and contributes to the central principle of life, is expected to create various applied technology to pioneer in a new area of research.

Progeneer CEOs Chul Kim and Young Ku Lee are directly applying the technology to their personalized anti-cancer vaccine project (ProV-001) and achieving a functional protein synthesis pipeline.

Journal Cover, using hydrogel only consisted of RNA to mass produce protein with low cost at short period of time

[Research Overview] Examples of mass production of functional proteins using RNA hydrogels technology