Closed-type Plant Factory: Drawing Out the Hidden Power of Plants
Genetic engineering is an effective method for making use of the hidden power of plants in manufacturing medicines. However, the cultivation of genetically-modified plants in open fields has been regulated by law from the perspective of biodiversity conservation. At AIST, a test plant for a completely closed-type plant factory was constructed at the Hokkaido Center, and technology that utilizes genetically-modified plants for manufacturing medicines is being developed, without any external impact.
In general, a "plant factory" refers to a system where plants are cultured with nutrients in a fully-regulated environmental condition independent from natural climatic changes. At AIST's plant factory, where research and development to make plants produce high value added materials, such as medicines, using genetic recombination technology is being carried out, the temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, wind velocity and airflow inside the cultivation room are being controlled freely and precisely (for example, it is possible to reproduce the weather conditions of a midsummer's day), genetically-modified plants are being cultivated, and the ingredients for medicines are being produced.
Of course, since the premise is cultivation of genetically-modified plants, the facility is equipped with containment equipment that conforms to the Law Concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity through Regulations on the Use of Living Modified Organisms. Since there is a pharmaceutical area that is integrated with the cultivation area, it is possible to implement a consistent process, from cultivation to manufacture of medicines, within the closed-type plant factory.
The first product manufactured in AIST's plant factory is a gum inflammation suppression drug for dogs, which was produced from genetically-modified strawberries, and it has now gone on sale.