WORCESTER, Mass. Oct. 27, 2008 Can biofuels produced from non-food plant products like corn stalks or wood chips ever become a commercial reality? Can plants be engineered to grow vaccines or anti-cancer drugs? These and other questions were explored by researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the Arkansas Bioscience Institute (ABI) at a symposium today at WPI's Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center at Gateway Park.
In general, the answer to these questions may soon be "yes" and teams from WPI and ABI are advancing the science and technology needed to reach those ends. "For most of human history, plants and microorganisms were the source for medicinal products, fuels, and specialty chemicals. So in a very real sense, what we're doing is a back-to-the-future approach," says Pamela J. Weathers, PhD, professor of biology and biotechnology at WPI, organizer of the symposium and a leader in the emerging collaboration with ABI.
"With our colleagues in Arkansas, we are making good progress on developing the technology and understanding the biology that will allow us to use plants and microbes to help meet our energy needs and to create new pharmaceuticals and other chemical building blocks essential for a healthy society and environment."
The abstracts from the presentations at today's symposium are:
"Plant produced small- and large-molecule therapeutics"
Pamela J. Weathers, PhD Professor, Department of Biology and Biotechnology, WPI
Plants naturally produce many valuable small molecules like terpenes and alkaloids that have for centuries been used in treatment of disease and as pesticides. More recently plants have also been proposed as suitable production vehicles for large molecules such as therapeutic proteins. Harnessing plants to yield both large and small molecular weight products on a larger scale has been challenging. Although field plants are the least expensive mode of produc
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Worcester Polytechnic Institute