Ashley Meyers, PlantForm's Director Special Projects, with tobacco plants that will be used to produce an antibody that counteracts the effects of ricin exposure.
PlantForm to produce anti-ricin antibody for Defence Research and Development Canada
PlantForm Corporation has received a Government of Canada contract for the plant-based production of an antibody being studied by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) as an antidote to ricin exposure. The contract, valued at $135,000, is for delivery of 2 grams of an anti-ricin antibody, known as hD9, produced using PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS® biopharmaceutical platform.
Ricin is highly toxic and considered a bioterrorism risk for the public as no therapeutic antibody or vaccine is currently available to counteract its deadly effects. The hD9 antibody drug candidate developed by DRDC prevents ricin from penetrating cells.
The current contract to PlantForm follows work conducted last year in the lab of University of Guelph Professor Emeritus J. Christopher Hall to evaluate the potential for PlantForm’s tobacco-plant-based drug expression system to produce the hD9 antibody. Hall, a PlantForm co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, is the originator of the vivoXPRESS® platform.
DRDC conducted in vitro and in vivo studies that found the plant-made version of the antibody showed therapeutic efficacy against ricin intoxication that was comparable to hD9 produced using mammalian cell technology. The findings were presented at the Antibody Engineering and Therapeutics Conference in December 2015.
“We’re very encouraged by the initial study results for the plant-produced anti-ricin antibody, and we look forward to the next phase of evaluation,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm President and CEO. “We believe that plants hold the key to cost-effective, large-scale production of antidotes for ricin and other potential bioterrorism threats.”
Additional funding expands anti-nerve-agent project
Work is also progressing to scale-up production of sialylated plant-made butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) in order to produce sufficient material to send to Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) for a pharmacokinetic (PK) study. A PK study determines how a drug interacts within a living body.
In late 2015, PlantForm announced $109,400 in additional funding from the Government of Canada to expand the scope of the company’s three-year contract for BuChE research and continued supply to DRDC, bringing the total value of the contract to $941,000.
The contract amendment came after PlantForm achieved a key milestone – the production of sialylated BuChE in an in vitro post-production process – ahead of schedule. PlantForm is collaborating with Dr. Warren Wakarchuk of Ryerson University on the research.
BuChE is an enzyme, naturally present in human blood plasma, that has been developed as a bioscavenger to protect against exposure to nerve agents, such as sarin. The supply of human plasma-derived BuChE is limited and extremely costly, leading to efforts to find other means of producing this important protein drug.
Adequate sialylation is necessary for BuChE to remain active in the bloodstream for an optimal amount of time – a major challenge for both mammalian and plant-based expression systems to date.
“Together with Dr. Wakarchuk and his lab at Ryerson, we’ve made significant progress in developing a next-generation plant-made BuChE drug candidate that we hope will prove as efficacious as the plasma-derived enzyme,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm President and CEO.
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