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Checkbiotech: GM plants to grow vaccines against killer diseases
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: March 21, 2005 12:35PM ; ;

Genetically modified (GM) plants are to be used to grow vaccines for use in
the worldwide fight against HIV, tuberculosis, diabetes and rabies thanks to
a grant of 12 million euros from the EU?s Sixth Framework Programme (FP6)
March 2005.

?Pharma-Planta? draws on the expertise and experience of 39 scientists
from 11 European countries and South Africa to address significant health
problems affecting Europe and the developing world - although the primary
aim is to provide medicines for poorer countries.

In the first international project of its kind, ?Pharma-Planta? will develop
the concept from plant modification through to clinical trials and they
expect to begin human trials of the drugs within four years.

?We are addressing the serious issue of global inequality of health?, says
scientific coordinator, Professor Julian Ma from St George?s Hospital
Medical School in London. ?Although the major burden of 21st century disease
is in the developing world we have to accept it as a global problem as these
are the countries that do not have access to vaccines.

?We know we can use GM technology to force a plant?s molecular apparatus to
produce a range of medically useful compounds. Already genetic modification
of other organisms is being used to produce human insulin and a hepatitis B
vaccine. However, plant derived materials used in humans have never been
formally addressed within the EU. So, this is a ground-breaking project that
aims to provide help for the millions of people that die each year
throughout the world from vaccine preventable diseases.?

Because plants are inexpensive to grow they could be used to produce large
quantities of drugs or vaccines at low cost - anywhere between 10 and 100
times lower than conventional production, which is often labour intensive,
expensive and often produces relatively small amounts of pharmaceuticals.

If the project is successful, the techniques would be licensed to developing
countries. They would then be able to start up their own production to
generate whatever amount they require at a cost that would not impact
greatly on the countries economy.

Although the project has not finally decided which plants will be used, the
likely candidates are tobacco or maize.

?The ?Pharma-Planta? project is an excellent example of how EU Framework
Funding is being used to help research and development projects that will
have a major impact on the everyday lives of people both in Europe and
around the world?, says Claire Horton FP6UK?s National Contact Point for ?
Life sciences, genomics and biotechnology for health. ?This funding helps
bring together experts from different countries to work together in the
fight against diseases that can affect us all.


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