Checkbiotech: Growing new breed of vaccine-producing plants to fight human diseases worldwide
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Lake Buena Vista, Florida - At his presentation at the annual meeting of the
American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) here July 24, 2004, Arizona
State University Professor Charles J. Arntzen explained the newest advances
in his research on plant-producing vaccines, July 2004 by Brian Hyps.
The development and introduction of new vaccines to improve global public
health faces many challenges, Arntzen noted. The vaccines must address the
need for lower costs, oral-administration (needle-free), heat stability, and
they must include combination vaccines including those that protect against
diseases that occur predominantly in developing countries, he added.
Over the last decade, the team working with Arntzen has shown that a set of
genes from human pathogens can be introduced into plant cells, and intact
plants regenerated which "bio-manufacture" subunit vaccines consisting of
the pathogen gene products. Simple feeding of the plant tissues to animals
or humans results in an immune response to the subunit vaccines," Arntzen
Arntzen's research focuses now on producing vaccines in tomatoes to fight
human afflictions such as cholera, Norwalk Virus and hepatitis B. Norwalk
Virus is a major cause of gastrointestinal infection and diarrhea. Diarrheal
diseases kill at least two million people in the world each year, most of
them children, Arntzen noted.
Ongoing research is focused on development of minimal processing technology,
adopted from the food industry, to yield uniform doses of heat-stable
vaccine for oral delivery, Arntzen said. He provided a summary on the
strategies used to ensure that plants used in vaccine manufacture will not
be mixed with those used in the food chain, and on the rationale for
adoption of plant-derived vaccine technology in developing countries.
Arntzen was appointed the Florence Ely Nelson Presidential Endowed Chair at
Arizona State University in Tempe in 2000. He served as the Founding
Director of the Arizona Biodesign Institute until May 2003. He currently
serves as the Co-Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and
Vaccinology of that Institute, with Professor Roy Curtiss. Arntzen was
elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1983 and to the National
Academy of Sciences in India the following year. He has served since 2001 on
the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) of
President George W. Bush.
Immediately before his talk 6:30 p.m. today, Arntzen received the American
Society of Plant Biologists 2004 Leadership in Science Public Service Award.
The award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding
contributions to science and society.
Past years recipients of the ASPB Leadership in Science Public Service Award
are Alexander von Humboldt Award for Agriculture winner Dr. Dennis
Gonsalves, Nobel Laureate for Peace Dr. Norman Borlaug, Dr. Ingo Potrykus,
whose discoveries produced Golden Rice to combat human blindness and other
afflictions, Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Gordon Conway, and U.S.
Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO).
The American Society of Plant Biologists, founded in 1924, is a non-profit
society of nearly 6,000 plant scientists from the United States and 60 other
nations. The Society's annual meeting here at Disney's Coronado Springs
Resort & Convention Center near Orlando, Florida attracted more than 1,200
scientists in attendance. ASPB publishes two of the most frequently cited
plant science journals in the world: The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology.
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