Researchers at Medicago (a biotechnology company) in Quebec, collaborating with GlaxoSmithKline (a leading drug manufacturer), have developed a plant-based vaccine for Covid-19. The vaccine branded Covifenz is quite promising, with trial participants exhibiting a robust antibody response after getting the jab. The immune response is about ten times above that observed in individuals recuperating from the natural disease. The antibody levels are also higher than are those induced by other current vaccines.
How it Works
Researchers must identify a method to produce antigens to develop a vaccine. Antigens are the molecular particles that induce an immune reaction in the body. In plant-based vaccines, plants serve as bioreactors for the production of antigens. A suitable plant candidate for vaccine development must exhibit susceptibility to infections by an array of pathogens porno. For the development of covifenz, Nicotiana benthamonia, a plant related to the tobacco plant, was the ideal plant. Researchers modify the plant to produce virus-like particles (VPLs), which serve as the antigen.
The process begins by inserting the genetic code for making the VLPs into the plant. The code is like an instruction manual to the plant. Next, The plant cells read the code and use the information to produce large amounts of VLPs. The VLPs are very complex molecular structures that closely resemble the virus that causes the covid-19; they mimic the organization and size of the virus. However, VLPs lack genetic information and are therefore not virulent – unlike the virus, VLPs cannot replicate or cause disease. Once injected into the body system, the VLPs trick the body’s immune defenses into action. The next step involves the purification of the VLPs.
Aside from VLPs, the covifenz vaccine contains another key ingredient, an adjuvant produced by GSK GlaxoSmithKline. Adjuvants are essential in some but not all vaccines, and they strengthen the immune response. The inclusion of adjuvants is necessary, especially during a pandemic, because it boosts the immune response and reduces the quantity of antigen needed in a dose. This allows for the production of more vaccine doses to protect a larger population.
The Effectiveness of Plant-Based Vaccines
During its third phase of trials, covifenz (currently the only plant-based vaccine against covid-19) showed a general efficacy rate of 71 percent. According to researchers, virus-like proteins retain their structure as the blood transports them through the body. Other vaccines’ active molecules – spike proteins – quickly disperse in the bloodstream. Since VLP’s are delivered as a whole – resembling the virus – they elicit a more robust immune reaction. This could explain the excellent performance of the vaccine in different environments. The plant-based vaccine is 75.3 percent effective against the current dominant Delta strain and about 89 percent effective against the Gamma strain.
Advantages of Plants for Vaccine Production
Plants are ideal for vaccine development because they yield high amounts of VLPs. It is also cheaper to produce vaccines using plants than other methods. Plant-based vaccines take a shorter time to make than conventional vaccine production methods. For example, the production of plant-based flu vaccine takes between five and six weeks. The same vaccine takes five to six months using the egg-based vaccine production method.