For centuries, plants have served as a natural source of treatments and therapies. New advances in biotechnology make it possible to turn plants into “factories” that produce therapeutic proteins for use in the manufacture of biologics. The potential of plant-made pharmaceuticals to combat life-threatening diseases has been in the news recently as they may be helpful in treating Ebola.
Developing therapeutic proteins in plants can be a safer, more efficient and cost-effective method of protein production. Here’s why:
1. Plants are the most efficient protein producers on the planet. Plants have a superior ability to assimilate genetic information and produce complex proteins that can be used to make more effective therapeutics.
2. Traditional cell culture methods require significant capital and labor investment. There are significantly lower facility and production costs associated with plant-made pharmaceuticals. Plus, it is easier to scale production to meet demand. Plant-based protein production also can be the most cost-effective method to provide patients with the benefits of greater and faster access to new medicines.
3. Traditional protein-manufacturing practices are facing a major global capacity shortage for the production of biologics. Traditional methods cannot produce sufficient quantities of therapeutic proteins to meet patient population needs. Plants that can serve as protein-producing facilities can help alleviate this shortage.
4. In many cases it costs significantly less to grow plants with the ability to mass-produce pharmaceutical proteins because plant-based techniques do not require the same costly capital investments as other production methods. Production and cost advantages of plant-made pharmaceuticals can allow more capital to be invested in research and development of new therapeutics.
To learn more about the science behind plant-made pharmaceuticals, please check out this short video.