2012 – 2015 Research Assistant
Replacement of animal derived products for prevention of rabies in under-developed countries
Professor Julian Ma
The purpose of this project is to develop an alternative medicine for the prevention of rabies that avoids the use of animal derived products.
Although only rarely seen now in UK, rabies continues to be serious and lethal infection in many countries, particularly in SE Asia and Africa, where infected animals are commonly found living alongside humans.
In most developing parts of the world, the mainstay to controlling rabies is to administer treatment to patients after that have been bitten by a suspect animal. This avoids the need to vaccinate the whole population which is costly, but it does mean that in addition to the vaccine, another product rabies immunoglobulin (RIG) needs to be given around the bite wound, to protect the patient against infection until the vaccine can work.
RIG is purified from the blood of human volunteers, or more commonly in developing countries, horses who are intentionally vaccinated against rabies.
In the last 10 years, we have investigated how to make the components of RIG in plants that have been genetically modified specifically for this product. Over the next 3 years, we propose to establish the critical proof of concept for plants as an alternative production system for RIG.
We will grow RIG producing GM plants in glass containers within a closed environment. The plants will be grown under very controlled conditions using a hydroponic system, which will allow us to control the quality of the RIG product made and ensure that it meets the requirements for regulated pharmceutical production. We believe that plants are the future for making RIG, and would eliminate the need to use human or animal derived products.
If successful, this method can be used for the production of antibodies and will have a huge replacement factor on animals.