Plant biotechnology for medicine

DG.RSTL.107.004:  Plant Biotechnology for human health

Plants are a promising platform for producing proteins useful in industrial and pharmaceutical sectors, including antigens, antibodies, antimicrobial peptides, enzymes to be used to prevent or treat infectious diseases or chronic non-transmissible diseases (Ma et al. 2005). Since the 90s the number and type of molecules produced through plant biotechnology have increased significantly and several products are currently under clinical evaluation.
Plant biotechnology allow us to produce recombinant proteins in complex form, free of pathogens or toxins potentially dangerous for human health, at lower costs than other production systems such as bacteria, yeast, insect cells or animals, and relatively quickly. This is therefore a promising technology to improve the health status of developing countries.

The expression of recombinant proteins in plants can be achieved  by the transformation of the nuclear or plastid genome or by transient expression systems, such as plasmids or viral vectors. Viral vectors are recombinant plant viruses, not human pathogens, which can lead to the accumulation of foreign proteins in plants at high yield and relatively quickly.
The Institute of Plant Virology (IVV) possesses technologies, know-how and facilities to produce recombinant proteins in plants through stable or transient expression systems. IVV is currently involved in an EU project ( to produce antigens useful in the veterinary or human filed (Papillomavirus, Hepatitis, Blue Tongue Virus, Influenza virus, swine respiratory syndrome, etc). It collaborates with the John Innes Centre, Norwich (UK), the Department of Public Health and Microbiology and the Clinical and Biological Sciences of the University of Turin.


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