ORAL EDIBLE VACCINES (i.e. vaccines containing an oral adjuvant, e.g. B subunit of cholera exotoxin) Since 1992, when biologist Charles Arntzen proposed genetically modifying bananas to serve as cheap vaccines against infectious diseases, research on plant-based pharmaceuticals has grown rapidly. In July 2004, the European Union promised € 12 million to European and South African scientists developing vaccines or antibodies against HIV-1, rabies virus and tuberculosis. Work is further ahead in the US, where several acres of crops, most of them still experimental, are planted each year. Researchers have thus far produced > 45 different antigens in a wide range of plants. Arntzen is collaborating with companies in Egypt, South Africa and South Korea, but outside developing nations, where there is an urgent need for such vaccines, finding manufacturers willing to finance larger trials to demonstrate efficacy has been a formidable challenge. Vaccine manufacturers have little reason to replace existing production lines, as most vaccines are economically unattractive. This area is evolving from a food strategy to a strategy for easier local manifacturing, still convenient to industry interests. The medical community is also focused on high-tech approaches, making farm-grown vaccines a tough sell. But smaller companies, led by young people willing to take risks, could challenge the current thinking. Part of the hesitation stems from the fact that plant-based oral vaccines constitute a new technology from both a regulatory and scientific perspective.
Web resources : Edible vaccines by Scientific American


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