Since the 1990s, several research groups have worked on the modification of edible plants and fruits that generate an immune response in the intestinal epithelium of animals after oral intake.
Genetically modified crops — still at the experimental, not commercial, level — used to create “edible vaccines” range from potato, tomato, lettuce, papaya, carrot and rice to quinoa, alfalfa, banana and algae. They have focused on hepatitis B, rotavirus, Norwalk virus, malaria, cholera and autoimmune diseases, among others.
This route was the one chosen by Daniel Garza, a young biotechnologist and entrepreneur with a research stay at the Institute of Biotechnology of the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) in Mexico, as an approach to developing a vaccine against COVID-19.
“The development of an edible vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 has so far been a little-explored alternative, even though the benefits are evident,” Garza said in an interview with the Cornell Alliance for Science. “Under this premise, this problem would be addressed with the focus of developing a fusion protein with the characteristics of a vaccine to be expressed in tomato plants.”
Read more at Cornell University (Daniel Norero).