Plants like tobacco are being used to produce bio-pharmaceuticals. The proteins that are produced in this manner are currently being tested with the objective that they be used in clinical studies.
For example, the antibodies could be used to manufacture a vaginal gel with which women could protect themselves from an HIV infection.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME in Aachen, Germany are working on this. Biologically produced medications, such as recombinant insulin or therapeutic antibodies to fight cancer, have become indispensable.
Plants are particularly suitable for producing complex active substances. The reason is that these substances can be produced inexpensively and on a large scale in plants.
Compared to producing them in animal cells, plants have the advantage that they grow quickly, are easy to look after and can be protected well against damaging influences.
Drossard, Thomas Rademacher and Stefan Schillberg from the IME, in cooperation with Prof. Wiltrud Treffenfeldt from Dow AgroSciences produce active substances in transgenic plants and plant suspension cells - economically and safely.
They are being honored with the Prize for Human-Centered Technology for their achievements.
"We wanted to show that it can be done, that biopharmaceuticals can be produced that are suitable for clinical studies," said Schillberg.
In a new project, the researchers are currently working on producing a malaria vaccine in plants.