Towards molecular farming in the future: moving from diagnostic protein and antibody production in microbes to plants.
Molecular farming of pharmaceuticals in plants has the potential to provide almost unlimited amounts of recombinant proteins for use in disease diagnosis and therapy. Transgenic plants are attracting interest as bioreactors for the inexpensive production of large amounts of safe, functional, recombinant macromolecules, such as blood substitutes, vaccines and antibodies. In some cases, the function of expressed recombinant proteins can be rapidly analysed by expression in microbes or by transient expression in intact or virally infected plants. Protein production can be increased by upscaling production in fermenters, using yeast- or plant-suspension cells or by using transient-expression systems. Stable transgenic plants can be used to produce leaves or seeds rich in the recombinant protein for long-term storage or direct processing. This demonstrates the promise for using plants as bioreactors for the molecular farming of recombinant therapeutics, diagnostics, blood substitutes and antibodies. We anticipate that this technology has the potential to greatly benefit human health by making safe recombinant pharmaceuticals widely available.