PlantForm, University of Guelph collaboration awarded NSERC Engage Grant

GUELPH, Ont., Sept. 24, 2018A research partnership involving PlantForm Corporation and a University of Guelph scientist has been awarded an Engage Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
The funding will advance research by Dr. Lewis Lukens focused on understanding and limiting defense mechanisms in host plants with the goal of increasing the yield of target proteins produced in PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS® manufacturing process.
The high-yield, low-cost vivoXPRESS® system uses tobacco plants infiltrated with Agrobacterium to express target proteins for development of biologic medicines and vaccines to treat cancer, inflammatory diseases and other life-threatening or debilitating conditions. Although the process uses non-virulent strains, infiltration with Agrobacterium triggers defense responses in the plants that can limit the yield of the desired proteins.
The $25,000 Engage Grant will support research aimed at providing comprehensive analysis of small RNA molecules (sRNA) generated in response to Agrobacterium infiltration and how they impact protein expression.
“Small RNAs (sRNAs) are known to play a role in plant defense and gene silencing,” said Lukens, an associate professor in Guelph’s Department of Plant Agriculture and a leading expert in bioinformatics and quantitative genetics. “The goal of this research is to identify and quantify sRNAs generated in response to Agrobacterium infiltration and transient transgene expression, and to investigate if production of specific sRNA correlate with transgene expression and protein production.”
The project will help PlantForm continue to advance and improve the vivoXPRESS® platform. On a commercial scale, a 10 per cent increase in production of therapeutic proteins can result in millions of dollars in additional cost savings or revenue for the company.
“We’re very pleased to be working with Dr. Lukens and his team to develop methods to suppress transgene silencing and increase yields of recombinant proteins,” said Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s President and CEO. “This project will generate novel insights into the role of sRNA in protein expression and further advance PlantForm’s strategy to make life-saving medications available at much lower cost.”

About PlantForm Corporation (
PlantForm Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the rapid development and production of specialty antibody and protein drugs using the company’s proprietary vivoXPRESS® platform. The plant-based vivoXPRESS® system makes it easier, faster and less expensive to produce approved biologic drugs for novel indications and new markets. The company’s pipeline includes trastuzumab for a novel indication in nerve regeneration, a biosimilar version of Lucentis® and other niche indication drugs. Learn more.

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