A Thai plant-based pharmaceutical company has produced antibodies against cancer from tobacco and undertaken successful trials using lab animals, it said.
Baiya Phytopharm, a start-up under the auspices of Chulalongkorn University, is known for its Baiya Sars-CoV-2 Vax, a plant-based vaccine against Covid-19.
However, the company says it recently reached a new milestone in immunotherapy.
Its biopharmaceutical research for cancer treatment via immunotherapy was awarded the title of Research of the Year 2023 by the National Research Council of Thailand.
Asst Prof Waranyoo Phoolcharoen, chief technical officer and co-founder of Baiya Phytopharm, said the company's goal is to reduce the cost of producing cancer-treating drugs in Thailand as well as making such treatments more accessible and affordable.
"Our team is developing technology to produce a plant-based protein, an alternative and cost-effective ingredient for antibodies to treat cancer," Asst Prof Waranyoo said.
Instead of targeting cancer cells the way chemotherapy does, plant-based immunotherapy focuses on boosting immune cells to block the growth of cancerous cells.
She said immunotherapy has gained more popularity of late but the antibodies used for such treatment are expensive. In Thailand, immunotherapy medicine production still relies heavily on imported technologies and equipment, ramping up costs.
Supported by CU Enterprise, Baiya Phytopharm's research team has developed plant-based biopharmaceuticals, including recombinant proteins and secondary metabolites.
Nicotiana benthamiana, a species indigenous to Australia, was used as a main agent for medicine and vaccine production, Asst Prof Waranyoo said.