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Texas A&M, ECOR sign deal to produce health-related proteins

WESLACO -- Texas A&M University System officials have signed a license agreement with proCANE LLC, a subsidiary of ECOR Corporation of Sedona, Ariz., to produce pharmaceutical-grade proteins in sugarcane plants.

Called recombinant proteins, they are used extensively in the pharmaceutical, food and paper-processing industries. But until now, the vast majority of these proteins were derived from animal organisms.

The recombinant proteins produced in sugarcane plants are expected to be safer and less expensive to produce, according to the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station scientist who developed the process.

"By producing these recombinant proteins in sugarcane plants, we reduce the cost of production, increase the world's capacity to produce these proteins, and we virtually eliminate the danger of transmitting pathogens from animals to humans," said Dr. Erik Mirkov, a virologist and molecular biologist at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Weslaco.

Mirkov and Texas A&M currently have seven patents, either issued or pending, for the process he developed to use sugarcane as a bio-factory for recombinant proteins.

In the license agreement, ECOR acquires exclusive rights to commercialize the Texas A&M patents in the field of bio-processing. ECOR's subsidiary, proCANE LLC, will produce the sugarcane-derived, high-value proteins.

Recombinant proteins are produced by splicing a gene, or a combination of genes, into an organism to induce that organism to produce the desired proteins.

Switching from animals to plants as the protein factory has been the focus of Mirkov's research for years, research supported to a great extent by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers, Inc.

To produce the proteins in sugarcane, the genes are introduced at the cellular level to sugarcane callus, thereby transforming the transgenic cane to produce both sugar and the high-value
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Contact: Edith Chenault
newsteam@agnews.tamu.edu
979-845-2886
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
25-Jul-2003


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