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'Growing' medicines in plants requires new regulations
Date:2/19/2013

Scientists say amending an EU directive on GMOs could help stimulate innovation in making vaccines, cheaper pharmaceuticals and organic plastics using plants.

In a paper to be published in Current Pharmaceutical Design, six scientists from the US and Europe compare risk assessment and regulation between the two continents. They will run a web chat on the subject with Sense About Science from 12-1 on Wednesday 20th February.

In the EU, plant-made pharmaceuticals have to be authorised in the same way as GM agricultural crops. In theory, agricultural crops can be grown by any farmer in the EU once approved. But for crops producing pharmaceuticals this would never actually happen. Drug companies would likely license farmers to grow these crops under controlled, defined and confined conditions.

"We need tight regulations enforced by continuous oversight to encourage investment, while maintaining trust," said Dr Penny Sparrow from the John Innes Centre.

"This will be of high importance, especially in Europe, where the issues surrounding the cultivation of GM agricultural crops remains a contentious concern."

"Plant-made pharmaceuticals challenge two sets of existing EU regulations and to make progress in this area we need to make sure they are applied sensibly to allow pharmaceuticals to be produced in plants."

Advantages of using plants to produce therapeutic proteins include the ability to produce large quantities quickly and cheaply, the absence of human pathogens, the stability of the proteins and the ease with which raw material can be stored as seed. This could be of huge benefit in developing countries where problems with storage can render vaccines useless.

If seed could be transported to local production and extraction facilities, the technology could also help boost local economies. The technology is also known as "plant molecular farming".

Just one farm growing 16,000 acres o
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Contact: Zoe Dunford
zoe.dunford@jic.ac.uk
44-077-681-64185
Norwich BioScience Institutes
Source:Eurekalert

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