Plant-based vaccines

    25 May 2021

    Due to COVID-19, everybody is talking about vaccines. But did you know we can use plants to produce vaccines, in a safe, rapid and scalable way?

    Medicago, a biopharmaceutical company based in Canada is doing just that using innovative plant-based technologies to provide rapid responses to emerging global health challenges, developing vaccines and therapeutics. Medicago is known for the production in plants of “virus-like particles” (VLP), that mimic the structure of viruses. VLP, once purified, can be used as vaccines, inducing an immune response without causing infection. So far, the technology has been used to develop vaccines against viruses such as the flu, or viruses causing severe vomiting and diarrhea.

    The technology allows for the rapid production of a vaccine that matches circulating variants.

    The Australian National University has recently signed a five-year collaboration with Medicago to develop new methods for monitoring the growth and performance of the plants producing VLP, in a non-invasive way. The Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT) played a crucial part in bringing a cross-disciplinary team together from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science and the ANU node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF). The APPF is enabled by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and this project reflects the aim of NCRIS to support high-quality research that will drive greater innovation and address key national and global challenges.

    CEAT was founded by the ANU, CSIRO and the ACT Government in 2018 and has since become an ANU Innovation Institute. CEAT’s mission is to bring together experts from a range of disciplines to collaborate with producers, industry and end-users, to co-design innovative solutions to challenges facing agriculture in Australia and beyond.