Medicine could grow on trees after research award
David Craik will grow medicines in plants after receiving A$1m (US$720,000) from a foundation to research the use of plants as “biofactories” for producing next-generation pharmaceuticals.
Professor Craik and his team at the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience have already created a designer pain relief drug by combining peptides from the venom of a cone snail with circular peptides from the arabidopsis plant, a type of cress, which had positive results in animal testing.
Third world countries could see cheaper drugs grown on plants in fields or greenhouses instead of synthesised in the lab, he said.
“This research has great potential to provide medicines inexpensively to patients in the developed and developing worlds,” said Professor Craik.
“However, it’s seen as ‘blue-sky research’ and falls outside the type of research typically funded by government or industry. So we are particularly grateful to the Ramaciotti Foundation for their support.”
The plant-grown drugs will be based on molecules called cyclic peptides that plants produce naturally.
"We think peptides are the future of drugs for reasons of being more selective, more potent and potentially safer, because when a peptide eventually breaks down it just breaks down into amino acids and amino acids are food basically," Professor Craik said in an interview.
He added that his work was still between five and 10 years away from being approved for use on a large scale.