Plants present a novel means by which large quantities of vaccine and therapeutic
proteins can be produced in a safe and cost-effective manner. Biopharmaceuticals
produced in plants are easy to store, require fewer timely and expensive purification
steps, and lack the containment risks associated with proteins produced in animal or
bacterial expression systems. Over the past decade, much progress has been made with
respect to the development of vaccines, antibodies and other therapeutic proteins. This
presentation outlines the steps involved in the engineering of a plant virus expression
vector for transient expression of vaccine proteins and other therapeutics in plant tissue,
and the advantages of this technology over the use of conventional transgenic plants.
Expression of a vaccine protein using this expression vector system is described. An
investigation into the basis of mucosal immunity using plant-based oral vaccines in
preliminary clinical trials is also addressed. Expression levels and biological activity
of a vaccine protein produced via a plant virus expression vector are described. The
efficacy of this plant-based vaccine protein is compared to conventional vaccines. The
presentation will conclude with a discussion of the future of plant-based vaccines and
other therapeutic proteins in human and veterinary medicine with respect to commercial
viability and as a tool to improve global public health.
Kathleen Hefferon received her PhD from the Department of Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto and continued her post-doctoral studies at Cornell University. Dr. Hefferon has worked on faculty at the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell and has written two books on biopharmaceuticals in plants. She is currently teaching Virology at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine.
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