The potential of plants as a system for the development and production of human biologics [version 1; referees: 3 approved]

Qiang Chen, Keith R. Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


The growing promise of plant-made biologics is highlighted by the success story of ZMapp™ as a potentially life-saving drug during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2016. Current plant expression platforms offer features beyond the traditional advantages of low cost, high scalability, increased safety, and eukaryotic protein modification. Novel transient expression vectors have been developed that allow the production of vaccines and therapeutics at unprecedented speed to control potential pandemics or bioterrorism attacks. Plant-host engineering provides a method for producing proteins with unique and uniform mammalian post-translational modifications, providing opportunities to develop biologics with increased efficacy relative to their mammalian cell-produced counterparts. Recent demonstrations that plant-made proteins can function as biocontrol agents of foodborne pathogens further exemplify the potential utility of plant-based protein production. However, resolving the technical and regulatory challenges of commercial-scale production, garnering acceptance from large pharmaceutical companies, and obtaining U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for several major classes of biologics are essential steps to fulfilling the untapped potential of this technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number912
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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