Sunday, September 11, 2011
Pharm Crops Ignoring Health & Environment
By Prof. Joe Cummins
September 11, 2011
Pharmaceutical drug production has undergone major changes following the development and approval of drugs called ‘biologicals’ that are for the most part proteins produced by genetic engineering. Biologicals make up at least a quarter of new drug approved, though they are about twice as likely as chemical drugs to experience regulatory action following approval (see ‘Biologicals’, Wonder Drugs with Problems, SiS 42). The recombinant protein drugs are produced using viruses, bacteria, yeast, and cell cultures from insects, rodents, primates or humans. The use of genetically modified (GM) crop plants to produce biologics has been an attractive prospect because the crops are capable of producing vast quantities of recombinant proteins at low cost. There have been a large number of such transgenic ‘pharm crops’ created in the laboratory and field trialled, though none have been approved for commercial drug production. However, some have now progressed to clinical trials.