A cowpea-based expression system can be ideal for applications such as vaccine production.

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Plant-based technology instrumental in flu vaccine production

Medicago, the John Innes Centre and Plant Bioscience Limited announced recently that Medicago's 14-day production of the H1 virus-like particle antigen was achieved using, among other technologies, a technology that was invented by John Innes Centre researchers and is licensed by Plant Bioscience Limited to Medicago.

The Cowpea Mosaic Virus-HyperTranslatable (CPMV-HT) expression system was developed by Professor George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury at the John Innes Centre, UK, using specific elements of comoviruses. It achieves high levels of heterologous protein expression within a few days without the need for virus replication. In addition, it does not produce infectious viral particles and, thus, achieves complete bio-containment while speeding up the process of protein production. A patent application with inventors from the John Innes Centre has been filed by Plant Bioscience Limited, the technology transfer company of the John Innes Centre.

The CPMV-HT technology can be ideal for applications such as vaccine production, as demonstrated by Medicago's production of the new vaccine candidate for the influenza A (H1N1) virus, also known as swine flu. ‘It is extremely pleasing to see that our plant-based system has proved so useful for the rapid production of such an important vaccine candidate in a case where time is of the essence,’ said Professor George Lomonossoff.

‘These recent results achieved by Medicago demonstrate again that they are an excellent partner to make use of this unique protein expression technology. We are delighted that the John Innes Centre's first class science is used for delivering such rapid results in the production of important vaccines,’ said Dr Jan Chojecki, Managing Director, Plant Bioscience Limited.

The John Innes Centre is an Institute of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell said: ‘It is great news that fundamental research funded by BBSRC has been translated into such a useful application. To have this application put to use for the benefit of worldwide health is a very satisfying outcome and shows the real value of investing in basic research in the early days so that we can have useful technologies further down the line.’

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