Cell-free protein synthesis: Applications come of age

Erik D. Carlson, Rui Gan, C. Eric Hodgman, Michael Christopher Jewett*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

509 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1185-1194
Number of pages10
JournalBiotechnology Advances
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2012


  • Cell-free biology
  • Cell-free protein synthesis
  • E. coli extract
  • High-throughput
  • In vitro translation
  • Personalized medicines
  • Recombinant DNA protein production
  • Synthetic biology
  • Wheat germ extract

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology


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