Biopharmed drugs offer much promise; but how should they be regulated?
Using genetic engineering in plants to create biopharmed drugs holds all sorts of promise for treating diseases, as the recent case of a drug which appears to have cured two Ebola patients has shown, but regulators may be holding this field back, argues Henry Miller in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Biopharming involves genetically engineering crops such as corn, tomato, and tobacco to create high concentrations of antibodies and other pharmaceuticals that can then be harvested.
The drug used in the two US Ebola patients, called ZMapp, is one of these; a mixture of three antibodies taken from tobacco plants that were infected with engineered plant viruses. These kinds of drugs have such "great potential," Miller says, because the raw materials are cheap and they can be scaled up far more cheaply than bricks-and-mortar factories. That fluid scalability enables drug firms to hold off on investing in production facilities until later in the clinical testing cycle, or until the market it will target can be better estimated.