East Malling Research aids HIV research

Plant specialists at East Malling Research (EMR) are growing genetically modified tobacco plants to produce a drug known to block HIV infection.

EMR deputy chief executive Dr Chris Atkinson and Professor Julian Ma of St. George’s University of London - image: East Malling Research
EMR deputy chief executive Dr Chris Atkinson and Professor Julian Ma of St. George’s University of London - image: East Malling Research

The plants have been transformed to produce a protein called cyanovirin-N, which research shows prevents HIV from binding to human cells.

EMR is developing ways to grow the plants hydroponically and promote the release of the protein into the hydroponic nutrient solution through the roots.

Using plants to produce the drug means it can be produced cheaply where it is needed, reducing transport costs.

The research is being led by EMR deputy chief executive Dr Chris Atkinson and Professor Julian Ma of St. George’s University of London.

Atkinson said: "Tobacco is an ideal non-food crop for this research thanks to the speed it grows and matures and our deep knowledge of its physiology and transformability, which has been the focus of scientific attention for more than 20 years."


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