Highlights from Leaf Expression Systems’ visit to Helsinki for ISPMF 2018

Highlights from Leaf Expression Systems’ visit to Helsinki for ISPMF 2018

After Berlin in 2014 and Ghent in 2016, Helsinki was selected to be the 2018 host of the 3rd biannual meeting of the International Society of Plant Molecular Farming (ISPMF), held on June 11th-13th.

This year’s meeting was hosted by VTT, the Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd, one of Europe’s leading research organisations. A full program of 43 talks scheduled over two and a half days awaited the participants – a diverse crowd of over 100 ISPMF members from more than 21 countries. In addition to the talks, over 70 posters were presented at the meeting.

ISPMF’s mission is to promote the use of plants for the production of a wide variety of products ranging from metabolites to biopharmaceuticals with a particular interest in fostering the translation of research findings towards industry application. Marc-André D’Aoust (Medicago Inc., Quebec) gave one of the keynote presentations on the development of the next generation plant-expressed influenza vaccine – an excellent example of a successful transition from bench to pharma/factory.

Leaf Expression Systems was represented by Dr. Nick Holton (Process Development Manager) and Dr. Franziska Kellner (Plant Research Scientist), who both presented some of our recent work. On Monday, Dr Franziska Kellner opened the first session with her talk on the development of a virus-like particle based Rift Valley Fever vaccine. This work was financed by the Department of Health and Innovate UK in the form of an SBRI grant entitled ‘Development of Virus-Like Particles as vaccines against emerging viral diseases’, awarded to Leaf Expression Systems in April 2017.

Dr. Nick Holton presented a poster summarising some of Leaf Expression Systems own research, investigating the potential use of plant-based expression to develop enzyme replacement therapies for a number of rare metabolic disorders.

A snapshot of the poster that Leaf Expression Systems presented at the conference. To see the full poster, please click here.

This year’s speakers, presented work on a wide variety of topics. Of particular interest was the further optimisation of plants as production platforms. Work on genome editing of Nicotiana plants for higher yields, or altered glycosylation patterns was presented alongside similar approaches in alternative plant-based production systems such as cell cultures, trichomes, micro algae, moss or plant embryo cultures. The natural richness of plants in secondary metabolites is harnessed with the commercialisation of plant derived compounds that are marketed for their skin rejuvenating activity or, in the case of anthocyanins, as plant colour bio-factories. Vaccines from plants was also a major topic of interest, ranging from research on plant-produced animal vaccines against bird flu, to combination microbicide against HIV-1 expressed in rice.

As ever, ISPMF catalysed a range of interesting discussions and networking opportunities for future collaborations. With plant molecular pharming maturing rapidly, ISMPF 2020, due to be held in Rome, will not be one to miss.