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Growing better medicines on trees

Imagine curing obesity by eating fries made from genetically engineered potatoes, treating cancer with tobacco leaves or controlling chronic pain by swallowing sunflower seeds.

It may sound like science fiction, but one Queensland researcher is working to make it a reality.

Professor David Craik, from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is engineering plants for use as ‘biofactories’ to manufacture affordable pharmaceuticals.

The research could usher in a new generation of more effective drugs, and rejuvenate tobacco-growing areas such as Far North Queensland.

Professor Craik said the plant-based medicines will be based on molecules that plants naturally produce, called cyclic peptides.

“These peptides would be used as a framework on which molecules with medicinal properties could be grafted, resulting in one molecule that can treat disease and be grown in a plant.

“Such molecules have the potential to provide new medication options for diseases without effective treatments and for patients who can’t tolerate the side effects of current drugs.”

The research could lead to a future where people in developed and developing nations could grow their own medicine, instead of being unable to access costly conventional medicine.

Professor Craik will this year launch the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Facility for Growing Pharmaceuticals in Plants with collaborator Professor Marilyn Anderson from La Trobe University.

The facility, based at IMB, will be supported by $1 million from the Clive and Vera Ramaciotti Foundation and trustee Perpetual after Professors Craik and Anderson received the Ramaciotti Biomedical Research Award.

Further information

Licence
Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia (CC BY-ND 3.0)
Last updated
18 July, 2017

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