Putting the spotlight back on plant suspension cultures
Plant cell suspension cultures have several advantages that make them suitable for the production of recombinant proteins. They can be cultivated under aseptic conditions using classical fermentation technology, they are easy to scale-up for manufacturing, and the regulatory requirements are similar to those established for well-characterized production systems based on microbial and mammalian cells. It is therefore no surprise that taliglucerase alfa (Elelyso (R))-the first licensed recombinant pharmaceutical protein derived from plants-is produced in plant cell suspension cultures. But despite this breakthrough, plant cells are still largely neglected compared to transgenic plants and the more recent plant-based transient expression systems. Here, we revisit plant cell suspension cultures and highlight recent developments in the field that show how the rise of plant cells parallels that of Chinese hamster ovary cells, currently the most widespread and successful manufacturing platform for biologics. These developments include medium optimization, process engineering, statistical experimental designs, scale-up/scale-down models, and process analytical technologies. Significant yield increases for diverse target proteins will encourage a gold rush to adopt plant cells as a platform technology, and the first indications of this breakthrough are already on the horizon.