Integrated Human Practices
When designing our project, we learnt about the recent surge in use of plants for therapeutics, such as for the Zika and Ebola vaccines, and were interested in plant therapeutics’ future applications.
From this we chose to follow the plant pharmaceutical route, to produce a treatment for Graves’ disease. During our project, we began to learn just how diverse the range is for plant therapeutics, and began wondering why, until now, it has been a relatively small field.
We then started to ask more questions, such as what has limited the growth of this field, as these were issues that we would have to be face if our project worked and was to be commercialised.
The issues that we discovered included public and media perception, and the issues that companies face with laws regarding genetic modification (GM).
Therefore, we created a survey to understand the public’s perception of GM therapeutics, and began to speak to companies that have succeeded in producing plant therapeutics such as Azargen, Leaf Expression Systems, and Medicago.
The contact with these companies, along with literature research provided by some of the professionals, was very helpful in providing insight in choosing to use plant expression system rather than bacterial or mammalian cell expression. As well as how companies manage public perception and the laws and restrictions of GM pharmaceuticals.
The results from our survey, provided more knowledge on what the public thought of the use of different expression systems to produce medicines, showing more support for plant and bacterial expression, rather than the use of animals for production of medicines.
Finally, we integrated our research side of the human practices with our modelling, using the articles provided from some of the professionals with whom we communicated to show how plants as a production platform can be scaled up easily and linearly.
Using this information, we were able to estimate how many plants we would need to give a single effective dose to every sufferer of Graves' disease in the US, assuming a mean disease severity.