E.U. Provides $14M To Develop Plant-Based Pharmaceuticals To Prevent, Treat Diseases, Including HIV/AIDS
The European Union announced on Thursday that it has provided $14.8 million to develop plant-based pharmaceutical production technology to prevent and treat diseases, including HIV/AIDS, Xinhua News Agency reports. The Pharma-Planta project will use genetically modified crops in order to create plant-based antibodies and vaccines. The first product that could be developed under the project will likely be an antibody grown in maize that could be used to produce a microbicidal cream to prevent HIV transmission. The project includes eleven European countries and South Africa and is led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology in Germany in conjunction with St. George's Hospital Medical School in London (Xinhua News Agency, 7/22). "The development of new drugs derived from plants, made possible thanks to recent advances in plant genetics, can benefit from cross-disciplinary collaboration at European level," Philippe Busquin, European Commission research commissioner, said in an EC release. Busquin added, "The consortium of 39 research teams from across Europe and South Africa will combine expertise across disciplines, such as immunology and plant sciences, to offer real promise in this complex high-technology area." Plant-based pharmaceutical production offers several advantages over traditional pharmaceuticals, according to the release. Current techniques to generate traditional pharmaceuticals involve culturing cells or micro-organisms -- methods that are "labor intensive, expensive" and produce "relatively small amounts of pharmaceuticals." Plants, on the other hand, are inexpensive to cultivate and can produce "large quantities" of vaccines or other drugs if they are genetically modified for pharmaceutical products, according to the release (EC release, 7/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.