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Video transcript: Proteins from plants: George Lomonossoff wins BBSRC Innovator of the Year 2012

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April 2012

Professor George Lomonossoff, Project Leader at the John Innes Centre
So the innovation in this case is based on translation enhancement in plants so its a technique for very rapidly expressing proteins ones which may be a pharmaceutical influence such as antibodies or potential vacancies and they can do this in a very rapid way from infiltration of leaves to harvesting is only about a week.

By this rapid turnover you can actually screen a lot of candidates which is a great advantage say over stable transgenic approaches. Now the great benefit as well as speed is that this method is also highly scalable. So you can just infiltrate individual leaves on the plant if you only want a few micrograms or possibly a few milligrams of protein or you can infiltrate the whole plant under vacuum displacing the air in the cellular spaces with the agro bacterial suspension and that way you can scale up the several hundred milligrams. But actually it is also capable of industrialisation so you can do industrial scale vacuuming infiltration with whole green houses of plants with a robotic system and in that way you can get grams to kilograms of material which is of course what you want for commercial production.

Now, because of this unique properties of the system, it has been adopted by several commercial concerns which we are also involved with for providing advice and the constructs and probably the most advanced product at the moment is influenza virus vaccines which are produced by a company in Canada called Medicargo and they have recently completed phase two clinical trials of the candidate vaccine and they have actually opened the production facility which is capable of producing 10 million doses of pandemic influenza vaccine per month.

They are also looking at producing seasonal influenza vaccine and of course that is where the speed of production really comes into its own because you only have about 6 months between the identification of a new strain in influenza which will affect the population and producing a vaccine and being able to simply identify the protein and infiltrate plants and harvest them and get your protein within say a two week time frame is a big advantage over the existing methods of production.

It is a highly responsive system you just don't have to use it for vaccines you can use it for all sorts of other manipulations such as producing industrial enzymes or indeed you can use it for manipulating pathways within the plant ie. where you don't need the actual proteins but the effect it has on the plant metabolism and so you can make plant make normal or secondary metalize so its a former synthetic biology if you like in that point of view.