Tillman Gerngross is a Professor of Bioengineering at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, and an Adjunct Professor in the departments of Biology and Chemistry at Dartmouth. Gerngross has been an active inventor and to date his work has resulted in the founding of two companies (GlycoFi, Inc. and Adimab LLC.) and over a dozen U.S. and international patents.
Gerngross received a M.S. (Dipl. Ing.) in Chemical Engineering (1989) and later a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from the Technical University of Vienna, Austria. Following his studies in Austria he became a visiting scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Arnold Demain (1989–91) and later joined the laboratory of Anthony Sinskey and JoAnne Stubbe at MIT as a Postdoctoral Associate from 1991 to 1993. From 1993 till 1998 he headed the fermentation and process development group at Metabolix Inc., a small startup company in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In 1998 he left industry to join the faculty at Dartmouth where he focused his research on protein engineering, glycoprotein engineering in yeast, and life cycle analysis of competing manufacturing technologies. In addition to this work, Gerngross’ lab also developed a novel protein expression system based on the industrial fermentation organisms Ralstonia eutropha, formerly Alcaligenes eutrophus. With certain model proteins, this expression system has shown to outperform E. coli, the well proven workhorse of prokaryotic protein expression. The work on Ralstonia eutropha was later expanded in collaboration with Prof. Wood at Princeton University to combine recombinant expression of proteins with the ability to purify them in vivo.
In the late 1990s Gerngross became one of the first vocal critics of biobased processes. By using life cycle assessment tools he demonstrated the shortcomings of bioplastics and similar biomass based technologies intended as a substitute for the petrochemical processes used today. His main findings showed that changing from petrochemical to biomass-based processes often worsens their environmental impact and increases the emissions of carbon dioxide when compared to conventional processes based on fossil fuel stocks. With the recent mandate to increase biofuel content in the United States this area of research has become increasingly important, but to date has failed to guide public policy in the United States.
Arguably, Gerngross' most important biotechnological contribution consisted of humanizing the glycosylation machinery in yeast to produce human therapeutic proteins, including antibodies, with fully human carbohydrate structures. Much of this work was conducted at Glycofi, Inc., a Lebanon, New Hampshire biotechnology startup company that was acquired in 2006 by Merck in a record-setting $400 million transaction.
His work has been frequently cited in the popular press including The Times (London), CNN, Scientific American, BBC, The Guardian, The Economist, New Scientist, Nature Biotechnology and the Los Angeles Times.
In 2000 Gerngross co-founded Glycofi, Inc. and served as the company’s Chief Scientific Officer until its acquisition by Merck & Co. in the spring of 2006. In the fall of 2006 Dr. Gerngross joined SV Life Sciences as a venture partner where he advises on investments in the bio-therapeutics area. SV Life Sciences manages five investment funds with an aggregate capital of about $1.6 billion. In 2007 Dr. Gerngross co-founded Adimab LLC. with Prof. Dane Wittrup at MIT and technology entrepreneur Errik B. Anderson to develop a novel platform for the discovery of human antibodies in yeast. To date the company has raised five rounds of venture financing from Polaris Ventures, SV Life Sciences, Google Ventures, OrbiMed Advisors and Borealis Ventures and employs about 70 people in Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Awards and recognition
2004: GlycoFi is awarded Scientific American’s Top 50 Award for the most innovative manufacturing technology.
2006: The readers of Nature Biotechnology select Gerngross amongst the most remarkable and influential biotechnology personalities of the decade.
2007: Gerngross and Glycofi co-founder Charles Hutchinson are named New Hampshire Entrepreneurs of the Year to honor their success with GlycoFi.
- Srinivasan S, Barnard GC, Gerngross TU (December 2002). "A novel high-cell-density protein expression system based on Ralstonia eutropha". Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 68 (12): 5925–32. doi:10.1128/AEM.68.12.5925-5932.2002. PMC 134445. PMID 12450812.
- Barnard GC, Henderson GE, Srinivasan S, Gerngross TU (December 2004). "High level recombinant protein expression in Ralstonia eutropha using T7 RNA polymerase based amplification". Protein Expr. Purif. 38 (2): 264–71. doi:10.1016/j.pep.2004.09.001. PMID 15555942.
- Barnard GC, McCool JD, Wood DW, Gerngross TU (October 2005). "Integrated recombinant protein expression and purification platform based on Ralstonia eutropha". Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 71 (10): 5735–42. doi:10.1128/AEM.71.10.5735-5742.2005. PMC 1265954. PMID 16204482.
- Banki MR, Gerngross TU, Wood DW (June 2005). "Novel and economical purification of recombinant proteins: intein-mediated protein purification using in vivo polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) matrix association". Protein Sci. 14 (6): 1387–95. doi:10.1110/ps.041296305. PMC 2253394. PMID 15883185.
- Searchinger T, Heimlich R, Houghton RA et al. (February 2008). "Use of U.S. croplands for biofuels increases greenhouse gases through emissions from land-use change". Science 319 (5867): 1238–40. doi:10.1126/science.1151861. PMID 18258860.
- Hamilton SR, Davidson RC, Sethuraman N et al. (September 2006). "Humanization of yeast to produce complex terminally sialylated glycoproteins". Science 313 (5792): 1441–3. doi:10.1126/science.1130256. PMID 16960007.
- Heuser, Stephen (2006-05-10). "Merck to buy N.H. biotech in record bid". The Boston Globe.
- "Yeast turned into drugs factory". BBC News. 2003-08-29. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Radford, Tim (2003-08-29). "Researchers tweak yeast DNA to produce human protein". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Dove A (May 2000). "Experts disagree over color of biomass". Nat. Biotechnol. 18 (5): 490. doi:10.1038/75341. PMID 10802610.
- Simon, Stephanie (2005-06-26). "To Replace Oil, U.S. Experts See Amber Waves of Plastic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-05-25.
- Gerngross T, Slater S (February 2003). "Biopolymers and the environment". Science 299 (5608): 822–5; author reply 822–5. doi:10.1126/science.299.5608.822. PMID 12574603.
- Gerngross TU (June 1999). "Can biotechnology move us toward a sustainable society?". Nat. Biotechnol. 17 (6): 541–4. doi:10.1038/9843. PMID 10385316.