Plant systems for bioproduction

Workpackage J: Virus-based systems for bioproduction

The CPMV-HT (Cowpea Mosaic Virus-HyperTranslatable) expression system, developed by Prof George Lomonossoff and Dr Frank Sainsbury at the John Innes Centre, has established a unique position for the UK for rapid transient expression of proteins in plants, through Agrobacterium-mediated infiltration of Nicotiana benthamiana leaves. The technology is powerful and was used under licence by the Canadian company Medicago to produce 10M effective doses of H1N1 (swine flu) VLP Vaccine in just 30 days, while the traditional route would have taken 9 – 12 months. Taking a synthetic biology approach, researchers at the OpenPlant are finding the CPMV-HT technology highly amenable for testing prototype plant natural product biosynthetic pathways, and for the actual production of high-value chemicals and bioactive proteins. The CPMV-HT is a highly flexible system and is being adopted for a range of applications in the field of plant synthetic biology.

Modular DNA cassettes for transient expression

OpenPlant researchers are creating standardised and modular viral expression cassettes with fine-tuned levels of translation efficiency. Further, the CPMV-HT system is being modified to permit expression in alternative hosts, including the development of new bacterial strains for the intracellular delivery of viral vectors to a range of new plant hosts.

Leaf Systems, Norwich Research Park

Leaf Systems, Norwich Research Park

Production facility

In a separate development, Leaf Systems® International Limited has opened a facility on the Norwich Research Park that provides a production facility for the expression and production of proteins, metabolites and complex natural products for research and bio-medical applications using the proprietary Hypertrans® expression technologies developed by Prof. George Lomonossoff and colleagues. The Hypertrans system allows for the simultaneous production of multiple gene products in a controlled and coordinated manner within the tissues of plants. Using gene synthesis and modular vectors, new products can be developed, validated, scaled and produced very quickly.

Applications of the technology include:

  • Production of complex proteins, such as antibodies or enzymes for research applications.
  • Production of antigens including virus-like particles for vaccine development or nano-technology.
  • Rapid prototyping and surge production in response to external circumstances. 
  • Metabolic pathway engineering to generate complex biochemicals that are difficult or impossible to synthesise chemically or are only found in rare species or trace amounts in nature. 

Leaf Systems is employing state of the art containment facilities to produce and engineer its feedstock plants and has industry standard downstream processing capabilities to ensure production quality and bio-security.