Chemical Engineering Seminar
Plants are a vast renewable source of important natural products, and the development of genetic engineering techniques has opened up a myriad of new possibilities for extending the biosynthetic capabilities of plants. Although plant biotechnology has been deployed commercially for decades for improved agronomic traits of crops, the combination of new plant expression technologies and synthetic biology components, inexpensive DNA synthesis, and novel bioprocessing strategies are enabling plants and plant cells to be used as molecular foundries. For example, new production platforms based on transient expression in plants within contained manufacturing facilities are showing enormous promise for rapid, scalable, and lower cost production of vaccines and therapeutics. Plants are unique higher eukaryotic production hosts that can be very simply grown using light, water, carbon dioxide, and mineral nutrients, making them ideal for applications in low-resource environments. This presentation will describe some of the challenges encountered when using plants as molecular foundries, as well as our group's research to increase productivity and product quality while minimizing resources, with applications ranging from medical countermeasures for biodefense on Earth to molecular pharming on Mars.