• Open Access

Plant-made vaccines for humans and animals


  • Edward P. Rybicki

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag, Rondebosch, South Africa
    2. Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine, University of Cape Town, Observatory, South Africa
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Correspondence (fax +27 0 21 650 2646; email ed.rybicki@uct.ac.za)


The concept of using plants to produce high-value pharmaceuticals such as vaccines is 20 years old this year and is only now on the brink of realisation as an established technology. The original reliance on transgenic plants has largely given way to transient expression; proofs of concept for human and animal vaccines and of efficacy for animal vaccines have been established; several plant-produced vaccines have been through Phase I clinical trials in humans and more are scheduled; regulatory requirements are more clear than ever, and more facilities exist for manufacture of clinic-grade materials. The original concept of cheap edible vaccines has given way to a realisation that formulated products are required, which may well be injectable. The technology has proven its worth as a means of cheap, easily scalable production of materials: it now needs to find its niche in competition with established technologies. The realised achievements in the field as well as promising new developments will be reviewed, such as rapid-response vaccines for emerging viruses with pandemic potential and bioterror agents.