Icon Genetics and Bayer CropScience publish milestone paper about the production of antibodies in plants

Halle, Ger­many and Gent, Bel­gium Icon Genet­ics GmbH, a whol­ly owned sub­sidiary of Bay­er Inno­va­tion GmbH, and Bay­er Bio­Science NV, a Bel­gian sub­sidiary of Bay­er Crop­Science announce the pub­li­ca­tion in Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences of the USA (A. Gir­itch et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, pnas. 0606631103, Sep­tem­ber 2006) of the third of a series of research papers titled “Rapid high-yield expres­sion of full-size IgG anti­bod­ies in plants coin­fect­ed with non­com­pet­ing viral vec­tor” describ­ing a new-gen­er­a­tion expres­sion tech­nol­o­gy for plants devel­oped by Icon and Bay­er researchers.

Since the dis­cov­ery of this tech­nol­o­gy 17 years ago, the abil­i­ty of plants to express full-size human anti­bod­ies has not been exploit­ed because of low yields and the length of time nec­es­sary to gen­er­ate just small amounts of research mate­r­i­al. Using two dif­fer­ent plant viral vec­tors and tran­sient co-expres­sion tech­nol­o­gy, our sci­en­tists have devel­oped a process that pro­vides a high-yield expres­sion of mon­o­clon­al anti­bod­ies (mabs) and takes less than two weeks. The method is exem­pli­fied by pro­duc­ing the human tumor-spe­cif­ic mon­o­clon­al anti­body A5 IgG1. With yields as high as 0.5 grams of IgG1 per kilo­gram of plant mate­r­i­al, the pro­posed process is suit­able for the research, indus­tri­al scale-up and rapid man­u­fac­ture of anti­bod­ies for health care use. It is also applic­a­ble in sit­u­a­tions requir­ing rapid response such as pan­dem­ic events.
This new process rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant tech­ni­cal advance­ment that broad­ens the ver­sa­til­i­ty of our sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion expres­sion plat­form tech­nol­o­gy, mag­ni­fec­tion. This tran­sient expres­sion process is used to start gene ampli­fi­ca­tion in all mature leaves of a plant simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, lead­ing to high expres­sion lev­els. It is indef­i­nite­ly scal­able and can be done on an indus­tri­al scale. This eclec­tic tech­nol­o­gy com­bines the advan­tages of three bio­log­i­cal sys­tems: (1) vec­tor effi­cien­cy and effi­cient sys­temic DNA deliv­ery of Agrobac­teri­um, (2) speed and expres­sion level/yield of a plant RNA virus, and (3) post­trans­la­tion­al capa­bil­i­ties and low pro­duc­tion costs of plants. The two oth­er ver­sions of this tech­nol­o­gy have been described pre­vi­ous­ly by Icon Genet­ics researchers in Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences of the USA (Mar­il­lon­net et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 101, 6852, 2004) and Nature Biotech­nol­o­gy (Mar­il­lon­net et al., Nat. Biotech­nol, 23, 718, 2005).

We are tak­ing the lead in mov­ing plant-made bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals clos­er to com­mer­cial real­i­ty”, says Dr. Wolf­gang Plis­chke, mem­ber of the Board of Man­age­ment of Bay­er AG. “The acqui­si­tion of Icon Genet­ics not only brought us a poten­tial­ly dis­rup­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nol­o­gy, but also a high­ly moti­vat­ed team of tal­ent­ed sci­en­tists. I am glad to see that their work is now being inte­grat­ed into the broad­er inno­va­tion effort at Bay­er.”

The Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences can be accessed at www.pnas.org.

Icon Genet­ics, a whol­ly-owned sub­sidiary of Bay­er Inno­va­tion GmbH, was estab­lished in 1999 and has sites in Halle and Munich. The com­pa­ny is engaged in devel­op­ing process­es for the biotech­no­log­i­cal pro­duc­tion of bio­phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals and oth­er high-val­ue prod­ucts in plants.

Bay­er Inno­va­tion GmbH (BIG), head­quar­tered in Düs­sel­dorf, is a whol­ly owned sub­sidiary of Bay­er AG. BIG eval­u­ates and devel­ops new fields of busi­ness for the Bay­er Group that are in line with Bayer’s core com­pe­ten­cies of health care, nutri­tion and high-tech mate­ri­als and com­ple­ment its cur­rent key areas of inno­va­tion and busi­ness.

About Bay­er Crop­Science and Bio­Science NV
Bay­er Crop­Science, a sub­sidiary of Bay­er AG with annu­al sales of about EUR 6.0 bil­lion, is one of the world’s lead­ing inno­v­a­tive crop sci­ence com­pa­nies in the areas of crop pro­tec­tion, non-agri­cul­tur­al pest con­trol, seeds and plant biotech­nol­o­gy. The com­pa­ny offers an out­stand­ing range of prod­ucts and exten­sive ser­vice back­up for mod­ern, sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture and for non-agri­cul­tur­al appli­ca­tions.

Bay­er Bio­Science NV locat­ed in Ghent, Bel­gium is one of the inno­va­tion cen­ters of the Bio­Science Busi­ness Group with­in Bay­er Crop­Science AG.

For­ward-look­ing state­ments
This news release con­tains for­ward-look­ing state­ments based on cur­rent assump­tions and fore­casts made by Bay­er Group man­age­ment. Var­i­ous known and unknown risks, uncer­tain­ties and oth­er fac­tors could lead to mate­r­i­al dif­fer­ences between the actu­al future results, finan­cial sit­u­a­tion, devel­op­ment or per­for­mance of the com­pa­ny and the esti­mates giv­en here. These fac­tors include those dis­cussed in our annu­al and inter­im reports to the Frank­furt Stock Exchange and in our reports filed with the U.S. Secu­ri­ties and Exchange Com­mis­sion (includ­ing our Form 20-F). The com­pa­ny assumes no lia­bil­i­ty what­so­ev­er to update these for­ward-look­ing state­ments or to con­form them to future events or devel­op­ments.