Global demand for pharmaceuticals is at unprecedented levels, and current production capacity will soon be overwhelmed. Expanding the existing microbial systems, although feasible for some therapeutic products, is not a satisfactory option on several grounds. First, it would be very expensive for the pharmaceutical companies. Second, other proteins of interest are too complex to be made by microbial systems. These proteins are currently being produced in animal cell cultures, but the resulting product is often prohibitively expensive for many patients. Finally, although it is theoretically possible to synthesize protein molecules by machine, this works only for very small molecules, less than 30 amino acid residue in length. Virtually all proteins of therapeutic value are larger than this and require live cells to produce them. For these reasons, science has been exploring other options for producing proteins of therapeutic value.
While molecular farming is one application of genetic engineering, there are concerns that are unique to it. In the case of genetically modified (GM) foods, concerns focus on the safety of the food for human consumption. In response, it has been argued that the genes that enhance a crop in some way, such as drought resistance or pesticide resistance, are not believed to affect the food itself. Other GM foods in development, such as fruits designed to ripen faster or grow larger, are believed not to affect humans any differently from non-GM varieties.
In contrast, molecular farming is not intended for crops destined for the food chain. It produces plants that contain physiologically active compounds that accumulate in the plant’s tissues. Considerable attention is focussed, therefore, on the restraint and caution necessary to protect both consumer health and environmental biodiversity.
There are also problems associated with the use of plants as protein bioreactors. Plant proteins have different sugar residues from human or animal proteins. Freiburg-based greenovation Biotech GmbH, in cooperation with Professor Ralf Reski’s research group at the University of Freiburg, has shown that this problem can be solved through the use of Physcomitrella patens. Because the scientists cultivate the moss in tube-shaped photobioreactors in a liquid medium, they have no worries that the genetically modified mosses might be released into the environment.
Frost & Sullivan: Molecular Farming Fits Need for Fully Functional Protein Therapeutics and Low-Cost Vaccines
Aug 06, 2013; By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Life Science Weekly -- Molecular farming is poised to address the huge demand for fully...
HUMAN GENES IMPLANTED IN CROPS TO MAKE DRUGS THE GOAL OF "MOLECULAR FARMING" IS TO CRACK THE ANTIBODY DRUG MARKET.(FRONT)
Oct 28, 2001; Byline: Paul Elias AP biotechnology writer In a greenhouse tucked away in Indianapolis flourishes corn being engineered to...