PlantForm collaborates to manufacture biosimilar to the South African market

Guelph-based PlantForm Corporation of Canada is stretching across the ocean to collaborate with South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and BGM Pharmaceuticals to produce a biosimilar of trastuzumab using PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS® manufacturing system. 

This agreement will permit the CSIR to produce a biosimilar monoclonal antibody (trastuzumab) using the tobacco plant-based vivoXPRESS® expression technology on a laboratory scale. The CSIR will demonstrate the utility of PlantForm’s proprietary technology to produce a trastuzumab drug candidate with the long-term goal of manufacturing trastuzumab, and other possible drug candidates, in South Africa for sale in African markets.

“This agreement represents a significant opportunity for PlantForm,” says Dr. Don Stewart, PlantForm’s president and CEO. “The South African pharmaceutical sector is the largest in the region, and by working with the CSIR and BGM Pharmaceuticals we continue to advance our global strategy for biosimilar drug development that will make life-saving medications more widely available at much lower cost.”

The vivoXPRESS® system is revolutionary, using fast-growing tobacco plants to produce a wide range of biologic (large molecule) drugs, including monoclonal antibodies and therapeutic proteins, at a fraction of the cost of manufacturing the same drugs using conventional methods. Studies have shown that PlantForm’s plant-produced trastuzumab drug candidate is equally as effective at inhibiting the growth of HER2-positive breast cancer cells as the commercial brand-name antibody Herceptin.

“We’re pleased to be working with PlantForm and BGM Pharmaceuticals to further development of the vivoXPRESS® technology,” says Dr. Tsepo Tsekoa, who heads the CSIR’s biomanufacturing technology demonstration research group. “The CSIR is committed to utilizing and enhancing our capability in biologics production to assist South African industry with development and localization of cost-effective technology solutions for biopharmaceutical manufacture. This collaboration will strengthen this commitment and help us expand our research into using plant-based processes to develop biologics.”

Looking farther into the future, the collaboration will advance BGM Pharmaceuticals’ mission to develop new biopharmaceuticals and improve existing therapies for emerging African markets, while at the same time showcasing some of Canada’s innovative and forward-thinking technologies.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to bring PlantForm’s low-cost manufacturing platform to the South African market to help make life-saving biopharmaceuticals more affordable and more widely available throughout the region,” says Martin Magwaza, BGM’s president and CEO.

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