Courtesy of Large Scale Biology

Agricultural researchers have designed a wide variety of genetically modified plants with traits deemed beneficial to those who grow, market, and consume them. But plants have another role in biotech: Members of the green kingdom also can be used--quite literally-- as manufacturing plants for large-scale, recombinant protein production.1-4 Think GM crops, with a twist.

Such proteins have potential industrial, research, and clinical applications. Plant expression systems may ultimately help the pharmaceutical industry meet the rising demand for therapeutic proteins.1,2 "Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are one of the fastest expanding categories of protein drug," says Lee Quarles, spokesperson for Monsanto Protein Technologies. With analysts predicting that more than 70 therapeutic mAbs will be on the market by 2008, requiring production of over 10 metric tons of mAbs annually, plant-based expression could decrease manufacturing costs between four- and five-fold over traditional cell culture techniques, he says,...

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