The world’s first trial of plants that produce human insulin is taking place in the UK. It is hoped that this may provide a new and cheap source of insulin to help meet the rise in demand caused by the increasing number of people with diabetes.
SemBioSys, a Canadian biotechnology company, has genetically modified a type of safflower that makes high concentrations of human insulin. The trial will reveal whether the insulin made by the engineered plant has the same effect on blood sugar levels as current commercial human insulin, which is produced by genetically modified bacteria in fermenters.
SemBioSys claim that the cost of producing insulin in this way is 70-80% lower than using bacterial fermenters that require a large amount of energy.
The plant-produced insulin will need to prove that it is biologically identical to human insulin before seeking approval for sale from authorities like the European Medicines Agency. (JF)
Source: Diabetes Wellness News, February 2009