Recombinant protein expression is essential to biotechnology and molecular medicine, but facile methods for obtaining significant quantities of folded and functional protein in mammalian cell culture have been lacking. Here I describe a novel 37-nucleotide in vitro selected sequence that promotes unusually high transgene expression in a vaccinia driven cytoplasmic expression system. Vectors carrying this sequence in a monocistronic reporter plasmid produce >1,000-fold more protein than equivalent vectors with conventional vaccinia promoters. Initial mechanistic studies indicate that high protein expression results from dual activity that impacts both transcription and translation. I suggest that this motif represents a powerful new tool in vaccinia-based protein expression and vaccine development technology.