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Crop Biotech Update

Maize Plants for Safe and Effective Molecular Pharming

March 7, 2008

Maize was the first plant developed into a commercial platform for molecular pharming. Although other plant-based platforms exist, including leafy crops, other cereals, algae and cultured plant cells, maize is the plant of choice for the large-scale production of recombinant pharmaceutical proteins. A paper published by the journal Plant Sciences discusses the advantages of using maize in producing recombinant proteins.

Maize seeds are natural protein storage organs, therefore an ideal vehicle for the stable accumulation of recombinant proteins such as antibodies. Other advantages include:

  • small kernel size which facilitates protein congregation
  • lower production cost compared to other cereals, it also has a higher biomass yield,
  • seeds are protected by an outer layer that reduces the likelihood of seed loss during harvesting and helps prevent microbial infection
  • maize products can easily be stored as grains, flakes or flour
  • short pollen dispersal range and short-pollen, minimizing the risk of gene flow

Considering these advantages, the use of maize as a source of recombinant pharmaceutical proteins could bring real and tangible benefits to those in the developing countries who are most in need of medicine.

The paper is available at