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Automated production of plant-based vaccines and pharmaceuticals

: Wirz, H.; Sauer-Budge, A.F.; Briggs, J.; Sharpe, A.; Shu, S.D.; Sharon, A.


Journal of Laboratory Automation : JALA 17 (2012), No.6, pp.449-457
ISSN: 2211-0682
ISSN: 1535-5535
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IPT ()

A fully automated "factory" was developed that uses tobacco plants to produce large quantities of vaccines and other therapeutic biologics within weeks. This first-of-a-kind factory takes advantage of a plant viral vector technology to produce specific proteins within the leaves of rapidly growing plant biomass. The factory's custom-designed robotic machines plant seeds, nurture the growing plants, introduce a viral vector that directs the plant to produce a target protein, and harvest the biomass once the target protein has accumulated in the plants-all in compliance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines (e. g., current Good Manufacturing Practices). The factory was designed to be time, cost, and space efficient. The plants are grown in custom multiplant trays. Robots ride up and down a track, servicing the plants and delivering the trays from the lighted, irrigated growth modules to each processing station as needed. Using preprogrammed robots and processing equipment eliminates the need for human contact, preventing potential contamination of the process and economizing the operation. To quickly produce large quantities of protein-based medicines, we transformed a laboratory-based biological process and scaled it into an industrial process. This enables quick, safe, and cost-effective vaccine production that would be required in case of a pandemic.