AIST Stories No2
Into the futureAIST!14From AIST to the Innovative WorldReliable production of useful substancesPlant-derived proteins are often used as raw materials for pharmaceuticals, but plants do not always reliably produce the desired substances. Wouldn’t it be better if plants could be genetically modified to express the appropriate genes in large quantities? On this basis, R&D into pharmaceuticals sourced from GM plants is being pushed forward in many countries.However, matters are not that simple. Gene silencing*1 mechanisms operate in plants, inactivating foreign genes that are introduced. AIST's Hokkaido Center has investigated this problem and in 2010 developed a technology to cause the desired substances to be produced in large amounts, using RNA*2 derived from a plant virus that suppresses the silencing mechanism. Finally, in 2013, AIST succeeded in commercializing a medicine using the fruit of a GM plant as the drug substance. This medicine is a drug that suppresses inflammation of the gums in dogs, sourced from strawberries that express a canine interferon*3; it went on the market in March 2014.R&D into using GM technology to create high value-added substances such as raw materials for medicine in plants is being conducted in various institutes and countries. AIST, however, is the first in the world to use GM plants as sources for medicine and achieve a commercial product without extraction and refining processes. As the result of a decade of research, AIST has pioneered a new pharmaceutical production process that uses production by GM plants.Developing a plant factory for manufacturing medicineThe reason a canine medicine was selected to be the first product is that the approval process of medicines for animals is quicker than that for humans. It was also significant that many dogs suffer from gingivitis and there are few on the market that suppress gum inflammation. As to why strawberries were selected as the source plants, ▲Inside the plant factory▶GM strawberries and Interberry alphaGrowing GM strawberries in a completely closed system plant factoryA World First! A Canine Medicine Derived from GM Plants Comes onto the MarketPromoting the plant biotechnology industry and contributing to medicinePlant Molecular Technology Research Group, Bioproduction Research InstituteAIST, Hokusan Co., Ltd. and the Kitasato Institute have developed and started to sell a medicine for dogs. The source of this medicine is strawberries that, thanks to genetic modification, produce a canine interferon. Genetically modified (GM) plants can be used as a raw material source for plant-derived medicines. Production processes for new pharmaceuticals can be developed, and the raw materials for herbal medicines and such can be cultivated. These will help to stabilize supplies and increase concentrations of active ingredients.Our life and society will change in this way!