Cell-free protein synthesis: Applications come of age
Abstract Cell-free protein synthesis has emerged as a powerful technology platform to help satisfy the growing demand for simple and efficient protein production. While used for decades as a foundational research tool for understanding transcription and translation, recent advances have made possible cost-effective microscale to manufacturing scale synthesis of complex proteins. Protein yields exceed grams protein produced per liter reaction volume, batch reactions last for multiple hours, costs have been reduced orders of magnitude, and reaction scale has reached the 100-liter milestone. These advances have inspired new applications in the synthesis of protein libraries for functional genomics and structural biology, the production of personalized medicines, and the expression of virus-like particles, among others. In the coming years, cell-free protein synthesis promises new industrial processes where short protein production timelines are crucial as well as innovative approaches to a wide range of applications.