Biotech Updates

Plant-based Vaccine a Front Runner for New Polio Jab

June 15, 2016

Professor George Lomonossoff of The John Innes Centre, is part of a research project led by the University of Leeds that aims to develop safer polio vaccines without using the live virus and exploring different methods for their production.

Professor David Rowlands, of the University of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences, who leads the project together with Professor Nicola Stonehouse, said that their approaches create stable vaccines effective against the virus in the lab, but they need to be manufactured in a cost effective manner. "The fundamental challenge is to build protein shells that are the same as the virus' but that do not have any of the genetic material of the virus," they added. The problem with this approach is that, the empty virus-like particles (VLPs), they have developed have been less stable than the complete virus, and are not suitable for making vaccines.

Professor Lomonossoff said that growing large quantities of VLPs in plants is surprisingly easy and incredibly efficient. "You simply introduce bacteria containing the genes for the VLP into the plant, which results in the plant's cells making many copies of the VLP. The process, from introduction of the bacteria to harvesting the VLPs from the crushed leaves can take just a matter of weeks." He added that this technique has a lower risk of contamination with other human viruses.

For more details, read the news release at The John Innes website.