According to BBC News, genetically modified (GM) plants will soon be used to grow vaccines against rabies and AIDS. Termed as “pharming,” this technology allows medicines (injectibles and oral vaccines) to be grown in plants. Professor Julian Ma of the St George's Hospital Medical School in London, and the scientific coordinator of the project, stated that the technique to create such plants will take two years to be developed before the first crop can be grown, as scheduled, in 2006. While clinical trials of the first vaccine derived from GM plants are planned to take place in 2009.
Says Professor Ma, "Plants are inexpensive to grow and if we were to engineer them to contain a gene for a pharmaceutical product they could produce large quantities of drugs or vaccine at low cost.” At present, the European Union (EU) has awarded £8.6m to a pan-European consortium of scientists who are keen on developing the said technology.
The news release from BBC is available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3887517.stm.