New vaccines II: Delivering oral immunization in a soybean
Imagine being able to mix up a bit of soy milk and swallow it for protection against a diarrheal disease, a food allergy or an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis. This is the goal of an unusual project headed by two unlikely collaborators: a plant biologist named Ken Piller and an immunologist named Ken Bost. Engineering crops to produce and deliver medicine is challenging, but soybean plants are unusually good at expressing large quantities of protein in the seed. Soybean powder can sit on the shelf for years in most environments, storing useful proteins in ready-to-use form. Soy-expressed proteins don’t require the elaborate purification that makes today’s bioreactors costly. The two Kens have founded a company, SoyMeds, to deliver oral vaccines, therapeutics and other important medical proteins from the greenhouse.