Dow AgroSciences has received the world's first regulatory approval for a plant-made vaccine for animals, which not only represents a new category of plant-made vaccines but also paves the way for human vaccines made in a bio-contained production system.
The Concert Plant-Cell-Produced System represents a step forward for plant-made vaccines to eventually be produced on an industrial scale. This technology utilises plant cells instead of whole plants in a secure, bio-contained environment to produce vaccines. Because system, concerns and challenges associated with making vaccines in whole plants or food crops are eliminated.
The system uses only the necessary parts of the disease-causing agent to stimulate immunity in a manufacturing process that is totally free of animal components.
"This approval is a perfect example of how biotechnology is advancing science by creating a new category of vaccines that is both safe and effective," said John Cuffe, Dow AgroSciences' R&D leader for Animal Health,
Dow's progression in this new approach to plant-produced vaccines for animals signals a likely progression towards similar vaccines being produced for human use.
This would confer many advantages. Plant based vaccines would be ideal for producing large amounts of material that would be needed for vaccination programmes in poor countries. Additionally African conditions would be suited to mass plant production.
By achieving this regulatory milestone, Dow AgroSciences has demonstrated that this new technology fits within the existing USDA Center for Veterinary Biologics regulatory approval process.
The wholly owned subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company said that utilising this revolutionary technology for human diseases is a real possibility.
Growing drugs inside plants, instead of making them in factories, could soon be big business with the US market alone potentially worth $2.2 billion (€1.8 billion) by 2011, according to a Frost and Sullivan report.
A number of companies are currently looking at ways to make complex drugs, such as antibodies and vaccines, inside genetically modified corn and other farm crops. The first commercially available drugs made this way could be available around 2006, according to consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.
Dow AgroSciences are just one of a handful of companies within the biotechnology industry developing a new generation of these products that can be seen as advantageous for consumers and beneficial to humanity.
Companies like Monsanto, DuPont have been actively exploring experimental methods for producing vaccine components, human antibodies and various industrially useful proteins in tobacco, corn and potato plants.
ProdiGene, a US-produced company, has been collaborating with Stauffer Seeds to produce eleven different proteins in genetically engineered plants on a commercial scale.
Fellow US based company, Genzyme, are engineering animals as "bioreactors" for drug production, this representing a whole new sphere of biotechnology applications.