Sunday, August 14, 2011

Julian Ma is joint head of the infection and immunity research centre at St George's Hospital Medical School in London. He specialises in genetically modifying plants to produce useful drugs, a process called pharming, which he hopes will bring cheaper drugs to the developing world. His Pharma-Planta project was recently given permission by the UK medical regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, to carry out human trials of a monoclonal antibody, grown in tobacco plants, that can be used to prevent HIV infection.

The real cost of drugs is not at the cost of the goods themselves, it 's because of the many years it takes to develop a drug, and many other steps. Where I think that the cost-benefit in coming, but is at a very early stage of drug development. In a plant system is the investment you have to do to early to test a new drug is much lower than if you wanted to do it with conventional systems. This could be 10 - to 100-fold cheaper. We know that many drugs in the first years of development, but if the cost is for the testing of each of these drugs is very high, very few people are typing in a position to field. If you make the cost of admission to look for new drugs is much lower, with plant technology, it allows you to bring the underdeveloped countries could look to drugs to which they find very important.

You can hear Professor Julian Ma on the latest edition of the Guardian 's Science Weekly podcast


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