Research Impact


UCL research on nanofibre purification technology improves manufacture of biotherapeutics

UCL research has developed a new purification technology using nanofibre materials, improving the manufacture of therapeutic antibodies. It is used by pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca.

Illustrated representation of a virus

28 April 2022

Antibodies are used as therapeutics to treat conditions from cancer to cardiovascular disease and can now be manufactured in the lab, but the process can be inefficient.  

Nanofibres are being used in medical settings including in the manufacture of implants, as tissue replacement, and in wound dressing. Professor Daniel Bracewell (UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering) in collaboration with Professor Bob Stevens at STFC Rutherford Appleton laboratories developed novel nanofibres that could be used to enhance the purification of therapeutic antibodies.  

The manufacture of antibodies for therapeutic use requires their separation from the crude production mixture. Commonly, chromatography is used, and the antibodies separated by attaching to a beaded resin through a process called adsorption.  

The UCL/Rutherford Appleton team set about designing a new chromatography process that would intensify the separation process and increase productivity. They created cellulose nanofibre materials with high surface area to provide high binding capacity and that allowed directed transfer of the antibodies from the mixture to the fibres. 

Puridify – the award-winning company making treatments more accessible  

After patenting the materials, Oliver Hardwick, a doctoral student at UCL at the time, established a spin-out company Puridify, to develop the product further. By 2016, the company had 14 scientists at their site at Stevenage and four postdoctoral researchers working with Professor Bracewell at UCL via Innovate UK funding.  

Puridify has won six Innovate UK Awards and in 2015, Bracewell and Hardick were finalists in the BBSRC Innovator of the year competition. The company has since been acquired by GE Healthcare and the nanofibre product marketed as ‘FibroPrismA’.  

Puridify’s Fibro technology platform (commercially available as Fibro PrismA) improves efficiency, by speeding up the separation process. These faster work rates, means small disposable units can replace much larger cumbersome beaded resin chromatography. Additionally, the technology allows a manufacturer to switch more easily between different biopharmaceutical products. This cost effective solution means that manufacture of advanced treatments in low- and middle-income countries is more feasible. 

UCL has already applied the nanofibre separation technology to other therapeutic products such as the viral vectors used in gene therapy and vaccine technologies, improving the yield of active viral vector product over other methods.  

Research synopsis

Nanofibre technology to enhance purification and manufacture of therapeutic antibodies and viral vectors

A new purification technology using nanofibre materials, developed through research at UCL, has improved separation processes during the manufacture of therapeutic antibodies. The patented Fibro technology is used by pharmaceutical companies including AstraZeneca, accelerating drug-discovery, which led to the spin-out company Puridify being acquired by tech giant GE Healthcare.