Biotech Updates

Native Tobacco Plants as Sustainable ‘Biofactories' for Oral Medicines

June 7, 2023

Researchers at Australia's University of Queensland (UQ) reveal that Australian tobacco plants could be used as ‘biofactories' for large-scale manufacturing of medicines. Professor David Craik and Dr. Mark Jackson from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience showed that native wild tobacco, Nicotiana benthamiana, can potentially produce large quantities of drugs in a cheaper and more sustainable method.

According to Professor Craik, they will use the natural ability of plants to produce cyclotides, the strings of amino acids in a circular shape, making them stable and suitable as oral drugs. The research team will use modern molecular biology techniques to effectively instruct the plant cell to produce the molecule of interest. The research team grew the drug T20K, which is currently in phase 1 clinical trials to treat multiple sclerosis, a devastating autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. Professor Craik said T20K is the first cyclotide drug to reach clinical trials, and he is hopeful that more will follow and reach the market.

“Harnessing plants as ‘biofactories' is more cost-effective as it uses fewer resources and is less wasteful, with a much simpler production process,” Dr. Jackson said.

For more details, read the article in UQ News.

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