from the urls-we-dig-up dept
The last flu season was pretty rough, but there's a new H7N9 strain that has no vaccine (yet!) and is starting to infect and kill people (instead of sticking to birds). We're just about coming to the tenth anniversary of SARS, and we're still creating over 100 million flu vaccines every year using egg embryos -- a process that takes months, time that we might not have if a really serious flu strain spreads quickly across the globe. Here are a few projects that are making vaccines more quickly.
- Tobacco plants can be made transgenic in order to grow vaccines for us, and they've been shown to be able to produce over a million doses of vaccine in a few weeks. DARPA has a challenge out to anyone who can produce vaccines at a rate of 10 million doses in a month. [url]
- Genetically modified tobacco plants can be grown and harvested by robots -- producing vaccine proteins very quickly and efficiently -- without the need for human labor. These robots can grow tens of thousands of tobacco plants in a batch, and it's likely only a matter of time before researchers can get these plant factories to produce other kinds of pharmaceuticals. [url]
- Flublok relies on insects to grow flu vaccines for us -- a process that has been used for other kinds of vaccines, but has only started to be used for the flu. Flublok has already been FDA approved, so it will be available to patients for the 2013-2014 flu season. [url]
- Bananas could potentially be grown with edible vaccines, but the regulatory hurdles for development have caused researchers to focus on non-edible vaccines grown in other plants (like tobacco). Bananas grown for edible vaccines might still be viable for treating fish or other animals. [url]