Hepatitis vaccine breakthough

Campaign News | Monday, 26 June 2006

Cuban medical first

HAVANA 26 June: In what scientists billed as a breakthrough, Cuba has developed the first monoclonal antibody from transgenic plants - dubbed a "plantibody" - used in making a human vaccine.

The antibody, CB-Hep.1, is from an "ancestor" of the tobacco plant. It replaces an antibody obtained from mice in Cuba's manufacturing of the hepatitis B vaccine and will significantly reduce the costs of production, researchers said.

Carlos Borroto, deputy director at Cuba's Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Center (CIGB) here, said the plantibody had won approval from Cuba’s medication quality control agency, part of the public health ministry.

CB-Hep.1 is the first plantibody authorized anywhere in the world for manufacturing a vaccine. It is just the second approved for human use, after one approved in the United States for treating tooth decay.

Borroto said since the breakthrough was achieved, “145 million doses have been exploited and not a single problem in their use has been reported.”

Antibodies used to date in making therapeutic vaccines for humans have been obtained from fermentation of mammalian cells, a time-consuming, costly method that generates very small quantities.

Using plantibodies in contrast is hailed as a breakthrough in dramatically reducing costs but most importantly in boosting the yield of antibodies, which makes it easier for vaccines to be produced.

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