Recent Patents on Biotechnology (v.6, #2)

Patenting Penicillium Strains by Rosario Nicoletti (81-96).
Penicillium species are a widespread source of biologically active compounds and enzymes which are exploited in biotechnologies. The ongoing discovery of new species, their biochemical and molecular characterization, and the application of the new findings in diverse industrial processes stimulate an increasing interest of patentees worldwide. An overview of the patents released in the last four years in agriculture, bioremediation, and in several industrial fields for the production of biofuels, food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals is proposed for an exhaustive appreciation of the potential cues offered to inventors by these fungi.

Agricultural biotechnology offers a robust series of tools by which to address global concerns such as food security, crop protection, and fuel/energy requirements. A number of advances made recently in plant molecular biology also have resulted in applications which largely focus on improving global human health. This review describes some of the recent innovations in plant biotechnology that have come to the forefront over the past year. Included are novel techniques by which plants can be improved as platforms for biopharmaceutical protein production, a growing field also referred to as ‘molecular pharming’. The metabolic engineering of plants to produce compounds which have additional nutritional benefits is also outlined. The review concludes with a discussion of the future impact that these innovations may have both on global health and on the development of our future intellectual property landscape.

Detection of enzymatic activity on gel electrophoresis, namely zymography, is a technique that has received increasing attention in the last 10 years, according to the number of articles published. A growing amount of enzymes, mainly proteases, are now routinely detected by zymography. Detailed analytical studies are beginning to be published, as well as new patents have been developed. This new article updates the information covered in our last review, condensing the recent publications dealing with the identification of proteolytic enzymes in electrophoretic gel supports and its variations. The new advances of this method are basically focused towards two dimensional zymography and transfer zymography. Though comparatively fewer patents have been published, they basically coincide in the study of matrix metalloproteases. The tendency is foreseen to be very productive in the area of zymoproteomics, combining electrophoresis and mass spectrometry for the analysis of proteases.

In the last years, hairy root (HR) cultures are gaining attention in the biotechnology industry. This particular plant cell culture derives from explants infected with Agrobacterium rhizogenes. They constitute a relatively new approach to in vitro plant biotechnology and modern HR cultures are far away from the valuables findings performed by Philip R. White in the 1930´s, who obtained indefinite growth of excised root tips. HR cultures are characterized by genetic and biochemical stability and high growth rate without expensive exogenous hormones source. HR cultures have allowed a deep study of plant metabolic pathways and the production of valuable secondary metabolites and enzymes, with therapeutic or industrial application. Furthermore, the potential of HR cultures is increasing continuously since different biotechnological strategies such as genetic engineering, elicitation and metabolic traps are currently being explored for discovery of new metabolites and pathways, as well as for increasing metabolites biosynthesis and/or secretion. Advances in design of proper bioreactors for HR growth are being of great interest, since scale up of metabolite production will allow the integration of this technology to industrial processes. Another application of HR cultures is related to their capabilities to biotransform and to degrade different xenobiotics. In this context, removal assays using this plant model system are useful tools for phytoremediation assays, previous to the application in the field. This review highlights the more recent application of HRs and those new patents which show their multiple utilities.

Marine enzymes are characterized by well-known habitat-related features such as salt tolerance, hyperthermostability, barophilicity and cold adaptivity although the related environmental conditions are present also in many non-marine environments. Novel chemical and stereochemical characteristics usually possessed by these biocatalysts, increase their interest from scientific and applicative points of view both in academia and in research industry. Chemical and pharmaceutical fields, embracing almost the whole body of applications based on marine catalysts, strictly rely upon their (stereo) chemical features. This review article is organized in two distinct parts. In the first, examples of different types of enzymes identified in marine environment are tabulated showing the importance of marine bioprospecting: in fact, the marine habitat is one of the most important natural locations for enzyme bioprospecting activity. In the second part technological processes based on marine enzymes are described: remarkable or unusual bioprocesses are performed by marine biocatalysts taking advantages by the habitat-related characteristics above mentioned which are desirable features recognized from a general biotechnological perspective. With this aim in mind this review did not search just for novelty in most recent patents but for important aspects within each report, enabling the reader to appreciate the importance of marine environment as source of very useful biocatalyst.

Patent Selections by Antonio Trincone (149-153).
The patents annotated in this section have been selected from various patent databases. These recent patents are relevant to the articles published in this journal issue, categorized by different nanotechnology methods, processes and techniques involved....