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Plant Based Vaccines Grown in Podlike Labs Could Stop the Next Pandemic
Posted By Yuka Yoneda On March 2, 2010 @ 10:50 am In Design for Health | No Comments
While viruses like H1N1  scare the living bejesus out of us, they’ve also been spurring science to look for new ways to produce vaccines quickly. Last year, H1N1 was responsible for more than 12,200 deaths, and the first batches of vaccines took about 7 whole months after the first cases were reported to ship. Researchers at the Texas Plant-Expressed Vaccine Consortium, a joint venture between The Texas A&M University System  and pharmaceutical facility technology maker G-Con, LLC , think that they could solve some of the efficiency issues that plague vaccine production with an unconventional plant-based approach . Called Project GreenVax , the plans entails using a combination of tobacco plants  and podlike laboratories that will be able to scale up or down in direct relation to vaccine demand.
In order to make a traditional vaccine, scientists crack the shells of chicken eggs and inject the influenza  virus into the fluid surrounding the embryo. If all goes well, the virus will multiply and after several days of incubation, the virus is removed, purified and made into vaccine. Following the “egg” method, it takes about two weeks to produce a flu vaccine in quantities that are less than ideal.
The plant-based approach on the other hand, entails scientists infecting a plant’s leaves with the virus. Compared to eggs, plants are cheaper and easier to grow and have the potential to produce more vaccine per plant than is possible per egg. Not all of the kinks have been worked out though – for example, there is a possibility that proteins cultivated in plants  might be different than those cultivated in animal cells, and may not be as effective or even effective at all. Only more research and time will tell.
GreenVax  is planning to house its research in a 13,500 square-meter biotherapeutic production facility to be built on a 8.5-hectare site on the Texas A&M Health Science Center  campus in Bryan, Texas. The warehouse-like facility will be home to around 9 mobile, pod-like laboratories as well as space to grow tobacco plants  using hydroponics. The pods will be self-contained clean rooms with either HEPA or ULPA filters and will be around 5.5 x 13 meters and provide a 5.5- by 7.6-meter working environment, gown dressing areas and a separate mechanical support area.
Via Scientific American 
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 Email: mailto:?subject=http://inhabitat.com/plant-based-vaccines-grown-in-podlike-labs-could-stop-the-next-pandemic/
 H1N1: http://www.inhabitat.com/2009/11/29/thermochromic-swine-flu-masks-colors-are-fever-activated/
 The Texas A&M University System: http://www.tamus.edu/
 G-Con, LLC: http://gconbio.com/products.php
 unconventional plant-based approach: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=h1n1-plant-vaccine
 Project GreenVax: http://tamunews.tamu.edu/2010/02/24/texas-based-consortium-announces-project-greenvax/
 tobacco plants: http://www.inhabitat.com/2010/01/04/tobacco-the-next-biofuel/
 Texas A&M Health Science Center: http://tamunews.tamu.edu/
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