PlantForm receives increased funding for their work with anti-nerve agent

Nov 3, 2015 | Client Stories

PlantForm is a Canadian biotech company committed to producing high-value biopharmaceuticals in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.  The company’s vivoXPRESS™ technology uses genetically modified tobacco plants to ‘grow’ biopharmaceuticals (including monoclonal antibodies, therapeutic proteins and vaccines for the treatment of cancer, HIV/AIDS, Ebola virus) in fully contained greenhouse environments. Their commitment is to improve the quality of life and survival of patients with cancer and other critical illnesses.

Press Release:

PlantForm Corporation to receive additional federal funding for work on anti-nerve-agent enzyme

GUELPH, Ont., Oct. 28, 2015—The project scope and value of a Government of Canada contract awarded to PlantForm Corporation has been increased after the company achieved a key milestone ahead of schedule.

The three-year contract has been amended to provide an additional $109,400 for work to scale-up a process that yields sialylated plant-made butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) in order to produce sufficient material for a pharmacokinetic study.

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 gas. The supply of human plasma-derived BuChE is limited and extremely costly, leading to efforts to find other means of producing this therapeutic protein.

In collaboration with Dr. Warren Wakarchuk of Ryerson University, PlantForm has produced sialylated BuChE in an in vitro post-production process several months ahead of the timeline set out in the initial federal government contract. 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 important progress in developing a plant-made BuChE drug candidate that we hope will prove as efficacious as the plasma-derived enzyme,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO.

“We are very excited to apply new in vitro methods to add sialic acid to PlantForm’s drug candidate proteins,” Dr. Wakarchuk said. “Together we are poised to create next-generation BuChE and other protein drug candidates.”

The amendment brings the total value of the federal government contract – Creation of stable glyco-modified Nicotiana benthamiana plant lines for the production of pharmaceutical proteins, and continued supply of recombinant butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) to Defence Research and Development Canada – to $941,000.