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Vaccines get help from tobacco plants

Stacey Vanek Smith Feb 26, 2010
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Bill Radke: We learned the importance of vaccine supply last year with the H1N1 scare. The global market for vaccines is expected to soon top $30 billion. Now a new technology could change this fast-growing market entirely. Marketplace’s Stacey Vanek-Smith reports.


Stacey Vanek-Smith: Epidemics and the threat of bioterrorism have drug companies and governments pouring money into vaccine research. This week, the Department of Defense announced it’s backing a plan to grow vaccines on a type of tobacco plant-not the kind you smoke.

Brett Giroir is a doctor and vaccine expert at Texas A&M University:

Brett Giroir: Plants are very good at making a lot of vaccine very, very rapidly. Plants have the promise to cut months off of the vaccine development timeline. And also to be able to do it much more cost-effectively.

Now, most vaccines are produced in chicken eggs-which takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money.

Barry Holtz is the president of G-Con, which developed a technique for growing vaccines on tobacco plants:

Barry Holtz: What it’s going to mean is we’re going to be able to respond much more quickly to pandemic or bioterrorism event or other things that would require a vaccine.

Holtz says they’re moving fast, but the technology is at least a few years away from market.

I’m Stacey Vanek-Smith for Marketplace.

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