Targeting the enormous international epidemic in sexually transmitted diseases, researchers from The Johns Hopkins University have successfully evaluated soybean-produced antibodies that can prevent the spread of the genital herpes virus.
At the moment, trials have been conducted only with mice, but the scientists believe the so-called monoclonal antibodies (MABs) could work particularly well as a cheap and efficient topical lubricant for large-scale human populations in coming years.
The findings are reported in the December issue of the journal "Nature Biotechnology."
Twenty years ago, scientists hailed MABs as "magic bullets," whose special properties would be particularly effective in treating cancer. Although some anti-cancer antibodies were finally approved in 1997, an increasing number of reports have identified MABs grown in plants such as tobacco and soy as potentially effective in preventing everything from gastrointestinal infections to tooth decay.
Visions of genetically engineered soybean- and tobacco-producing "fields of pharmaceuticals" now may have advanced to the next stage of production. The Hopkins scientists speak more distinctly about producing "fields of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals."
"Everybody wants to lower their manufacturing costs, but we're talking about several orders of magnitude of difference in thinking," said Kevin Whaley, a Hopkins biophysicist who is one of the authors of the report. "Right now, people are using the antibodies for therapeutic purposes, and it costs from $200 to $1,000 a dose. We believe we can bring the costs for preventative applications down to pennies per application. As a public health product, this will be the biggest bang for the buck."
The creation of soy-based antibodies actually occurred several years ago
at Monsanto's Agracetus division in Wisconsin and Protein Design Labs in
Mountain View, Calif., Whaley said. Whe
Contact: Gary Dorsey
Johns Hopkins University