Plant Molecular Pharming combines biotechnology and agriculture to produce valuable medicinal products in plants with a reduced cost
Biopharming or Plant Molecular Pharming combines biotechnology and agriculture to produce valuable medicinal products in plants with a reduced cost. In 2014 we created our own research line using Plant Biopharming that combines agricultural and metabolic engineering to exploit plant trichomes as natural factories to produce high-quality medicines.
Trichomes are small epidermal protrusions on the surfaces of leaves and other aerial organs of most plants. Trichomes’ peculiarity is that they are able to synthesize, store and sometimes secrete large amounts of specialized metabolites which could have significant commercial value as pharmaceuticals, natural pesticides or food additives. Our research line has used trichomes, plant-hairs, as natural bio-factories to produce some interesting compounds that may represent an unprecedented opportunity to manufacture affordable high-quality modern medicines and make these available at a global scale.
Our first product, ArtePharming, uses the Artemisia annua plant to produce the valuable product artemisinin at a large scale – the most efficient molecule to treat malaria as recommended by the WHO. Additionally, in the near future, artemisinin will be used to treat other diseases such as cancer, autoimmune & inflammatory diseases, seborrheic dermatitis, schistosomiasis or lyme disease, which affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide every year.
Artemisinin is a natural compound that can be found exclusively in the Artemisia annua plant; however its low yield makes this plant economically unfeasible, while the chemical synthesis of artemisinin is very expensive. Using ecological and metabolic engineering approaches, we have been able to increase the artemisinin content in the trichomes more than six times while reducing its production time three times. Therefore, ArtePharming will significantly reduce the price of this expensive molecule and enable the future worldwide demand to be met.
Sequentia will continue to invest in plant molecular pharming to explore secretory glandular trichomes of other medicinal plant species in order to synthesize several bioactive compounds of interest.
Please check the links below to find out more about what we have achieved with this project so far and what the future will hopefully bring!
Links and news about ArtePharming
- Proyecto finalista Espana The Venture (2016)
- Proyecto seleccionado por el Unreasonable Institute (2016) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkDOQLyCxF8)
- Proyecto seleccionado entre los semifinalistas de los Premios Everis 2017
Other related links and news
Using our new genetic engineering R&D line we have identified a critical gene, AaMYB1, that is able to double the production of the valuable artemisinin molecule as it is able to significantly increase the number of trichomes and the actual synthesis of the molecule (recently published Matías-Hernández et al., 2017). This discovery has opened the doors to the possibility of making Artemisia annua a profitable plant by using genetic modification.