Well, I am now back from a rather somewhat self-imposed hiatus from the Barista blawg site. The events of the past 2 weeks in my life, ranging from my toddler having surgery to selling my house, finding a new place to live for the entire herd, and having to move in 2 weeks time, all have taken a toll on any extra time I might have had to devote to any extraneous mental meanderings which I could have posted to this site.

That being said, anyone who knows me, also knows I am a die-hard animal-lover. So should it come as any surprise that since scientists have engineered a variety of barnyard animals to produce human proteins, they can now do the same trick in plants? (I love it – leave those furry creatures alone!)

Biolex, Inc., a privately held protein therapeutics company, today announced the issuance of a patent that broadly claims methods for immunizing a human or non-human animal against an antigen by administering an antibody produced by transgenic plants. This is the first patent ever awarded for the use of “plantibodies” (plant-made antibodies) to treat humans. Biolex now has exclusive rights to five U.S. patents in its Plantibodies portfolio, giving the company coverage for the production of antibodies in transgenic plants and their use to treat humans.

The specific patent issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is USP 6,852,319, entitled, “Method of Use of Transgenic Plant Expressed Antibodies.” It was issued to The Scripps Research Institute, where the technology was developed, and exclusively licensed to Epicyte Pharmaceutical which was acquired by Biolex in 2004.

Biolex would now appear to have a pretty big patent “stick” they can wield and it will be interesting to see how they choose to and can actually use it.

Biolex uses what they have termed the “LEX System” (and Plantibodies) technologies for harvesting therapeutic human proteins from Lemna, an aquatic plant, and other species of flora. Biolex claims that the LEX System(TM) can efficiently produce large quantities of proteins in compliance with existing regulatory guidelines with much lower capital investment requirements than traditional approaches.

In a statement released by Jan Turek, President and CEO of Biolex, Turek stated that “the growing need for economical methods of producing monoclonal antibodies has led to the emergence of many alternative approaches for the expression of proteins. This patent adds to our already strong protection surrounding plant-based production of antibodies, and further supports our goal of becoming a leading protein therapeutics company. Using our LEX System(TM) we can efficiently produce large quantities of proteins in compliance with existing regulatory guidelines with much lower capital investment requirements than traditional approaches.”

Time (and investors and the FDA) will tell if this prediction is correct.

Therapeutic antibodies form the fastest growing segment of the pharmaceutical industry, with 17 currently approved in the United States. According to Datamonitor, the market is expected to more than triple in value between 2002 and 2008 from $5.4 billion to $16.7 billion.

*Shamelessly stolen and bastardized from The Graduate.

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