Biopharming offers medical hope
BIOPHARMING might be the answer to a number of medical conditions ranging from HIV-Aids, rabies, cancer, heart disease and arthritis to Alzheimer's disease.
This week Professor Ed Rybicki of the University of Cape Town, described how biopharming could be used in developing vaccines for these and many other diseases.
According to the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement biopharming is the production of pharmaceutical proteins in genetically modified plants and animals.
"It can be expected that HIV vaccines will be expensive and the government will have to fund them. With biopharming, we are able to manufacture large amounts of a particular vaccine at a relatively low cost," Rybicki said.
As a UCT lecturer and founding member of the Institute of Infectious Diseases and Molecular Medicine, Rybicki's research focuses largely on making vaccines from plant and insect cells.
In terms of the HIV vaccine, genes that are coded for useful components are inserted into the tobacco plant, allowing the plant to grow and produce the end product used for pharmaceutical purposes.
In South Africa there are two main centres focusing on biopharming: one is led by Rybicki in Cape Town, and the other is headed by Dr Rachel Chikwamba in Pretoria.