John Innes Centre researchers develop plant-made synthetic polio vaccine

Researchers at the John Innes Centre, including OpenPlant PI Prof George Lomonossoff, and collaborators, have published research to produce a new polio vaccine in plants, using the HyperTrans transient expression system. The work, funded by the World Health Organisation, was published in Nature Communications. It is hoped that this new polio vaccine will be a move towards global eradication of the disease. The publication was covered by JIC News and the BBC.


Marsian, J., Fox, H., Bahar, M.W., Kotecha, A., Fry, E.E., Stuart, D.I., Macadam, A.J., Rowlands, D.J., & Lomonossoff, G.P. (2017) Plant-made polio type 3 stabilized VLPs—a candidate synthetic polio vaccine. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 245.


Poliovirus (PV) is the causative agent of poliomyelitis, a crippling human disease known since antiquity. PV occurs in two distinct antigenic forms, D and C, of which only the D form elicits a robust neutralizing response. Developing a synthetically produced stabilized virus-like particle (sVLP)-based vaccine with D antigenicity, without the drawbacks of current vaccines, will be a major step towards the final eradication of poliovirus. Such a sVLP would retain the native antigenic conformation and the repetitive structure of the original virus particle, but lack infectious genomic material. In this study, we report the production of synthetically stabilized PV VLPs in plants. Mice carrying the gene for the human PV receptor are protected from wild-type PV when immunized with the plant-made PV sVLPs. Structural analysis of the stabilized mutant at 3.6 Å resolution by cryo-electron microscopy and single-particle reconstruction reveals a structure almost indistinguishable from wild-type PV3.