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CAN (ON): Grant awarded for research into understanding gene silencing in plants

A research partnership involving PlantForm Corporation and a University of Guelph scientist has been awarded an Engage Grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The $25,000 Engage Grant will advance research by Dr. Joseph Colasanti on understanding gene silencing in plants and limiting the defence mechanisms that interfere with production of therapeutic proteins expressed by plants grown using PlantForm’s vivoXPRESS manufacturing platform.

“The goal of this study is to understand the underlying mechanisms of transgene silencing, with a particular focus on the Argonaute proteins — highly specialized molecules that bind to small RNAs involved in regulating gene expression and play a key role in silencing through processes such as DNA methylation,” said Colasanti, an associate professor in Guelph’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“The work builds upon previous studies that indicated gene expression and protein production levels can be enhanced significantly by targeting the DNA methylation machinery of the cell.”

PlantForm’s high-yield, low-cost vivoXPRESS system uses tobacco plants infiltrated with a common Agrobacterium to express target proteins for development of biologic medicines and vaccines to treat cancer, inflammatory diseases and other life-threatening or debilitating conditions. Although the process uses non-virulent strains, infiltration with Agrobacterium triggers defense responses in the plants that can limit the yield of the desired proteins.

This project will advance understanding of the mechanisms involved in protein expression and help PlantForm continue to increase the yield of desired proteins to advance the vivoXPRESS platform, said Doug Cossar, PlantForm’s VP Research.

“We’re pleased to be working with Dr. Colasanti and expanding the academic community involved in this important and growing area of research,” said Cossar. “The results will provide a foundation for advancing these technologies towards enhanced therapeutic protein production and making the vivoXPRESS system even more efficient and cost-effective.”

Source: PlantForm Corporation

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