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Plant Biotechnol J. 2016 Sep;14(9):1791-9. doi: 10.1111/pbi.12541. Epub 2016 Feb 13.

Biomanufacturing of protective antibodies and other therapeutics in edible plant tissues for oral applications.

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Department of Plant Systems Biology, VIB, Gent, Belgium.
Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium.
Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.


Although plant expression systems used for production of therapeutic proteins have the advantage of being scalable at a low price, the downstream processing necessary to obtain pure therapeutic molecules is as expensive as for the traditional Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) platforms. However, when edible plant tissues (EPTs) are used, there is no need for exhaustive purification, because they can be delivered orally as partially purified formulations that are safe for consumption. This economic benefit is especially interesting when high doses of recombinant proteins are required throughout the treatment/prophylaxis period, as is the case for antibodies used for oral passive immunization (OPI). The secretory IgA (SIgA) antibodies, which are highly abundant in the digestive tract and mucosal secretions, and thus the first choice for OPI, have only been successfully produced in plant expression systems. Here, we cover most of the up-to-date examples of EPT-produced pharmaceuticals, including two examples of SIgA aimed at oral delivery. We describe the benefits and drawbacks of delivering partially purified formulations and discuss a number of practical considerations and criteria to take into account when using plant expression systems, such as subcellular targeting, protein degradation, glycosylation patterns and downstream strategies, all crucial for improved yield, high quality and low cost of the final product.


antibody; edible; molecular farming; mucosae; oral passive immunization; therapeutic protein

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