Frequently asked questions

What is CoMoFarm?

CoMoFarm was an EU-funded research program that aims to develop high-yielding production systems based on plants, plant tissues and plant cells for the large-scale production of pharmaceutical and industrial proteins.

Who is involved?

The CoMoFarm project comprised ten partners from five European countries, including two SMEs and one large industrial partner.

Who funds the project?

The project was funded by the EU under the Seventh Framework Program with a total budget of 4.4 million euros.

How long will the project last?

The project was funded for three years, and lasted three years seven months with a no-cost extension.

Why are plants being used to produce pharmaceutical and industrial proteins?

Many proteins are valuable, either for use in medicine (e.g. vaccines, blood products, hormones) or in industry (e.g. enzymes). Normally they are produced as recombinant proteins in bacteria or, in the case of human proteins, in mammalian cells. The problem with this approach is that baceria cannot make complex human proteins, and mammalian cells are very expensive and are limited in scale. Plants have the potential to address both these problems because they can make compex human proteins and are inexpensive to grow at a large scale.

What is the CoMoFarm project trying to achieve?

Although plants are potentially useful for the production of recombinant proteins, they are at a relatively early stage of development and more needs to be done so that they can be used to produce proteins in a conistent manner. Therefore, the concept behind the project is to develop ways to standardize the growth and behaviour of plants and plant cells so that the resulting proteins show a consistent yield and quality.

How will the objectives be met?

The project will involve the comparative analysis of four different plant-based systems: hydroponic plants, root cultures, cultivated moss and suspension cells. A number of different species will also be compared. The best performers will be used for strain and process optimization. In parallel we will develop fully automated systems for plant monitoring and maintenance, ultimately leading to a full production platform including downstream processing and all regulatory considerations.

Which proteins will be produced?

We will use two influenza antigens and one recombinant antibody to compare the performance of the different plant systems and develop our automated production platforms.

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