Virus-like particles (VLPs) are of interest in vaccination, gene therapy and drug delivery, but their potential has yet to be fully realized. This is because existing laboratory processes, when scaled, do not easily give a compositionally and architecturally consistent product. Research suggests that new process routes might ultimately be based on chemical processing by self-assembly, involving the precision manufacture of precursor capsomeres followed by in vitro VLP self-assembly and scale-up to required levels. A synergistic interaction of biomolecular design and bioprocess engineering (i.e. biomolecular engineering) is required if these alternative process routes and, thus, the promise of new VLP products, are to be realized.