Edible COVID-19 vaccine made with tomatoes

The edible vaccine would stimulate the immune response of the human body against COVID-19

Mexican scientists develop edible COVID-19 vaccine using transgenic tomatoes
This photo taken June 29, 2009 shows a pair of beefsteak tomatoes - Photo: Eric Risberg/AP
English 17/06/2020 17:22 Mexico City David Carrizales Actualizada 17:59
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Within a year, researchers at the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) would be in conditions to conclude the necessary trials for the production of an edible vaccine based on the intake of genetically modified tomatoes, which would stimulate the immune response of the body to generate antibodies against COVID-19.

Daniel Garza García, a biotechnologist of the UANL's School of Biological Sciences, is in charge of a team of six researchers that are searching for a way to battle the new coronavirus which, in less than six months, has infected over eight million people worldwide.

The Mexican scientist explains that using plants as a platform for the production of vaccines and drugs is an innovative strategy that offers important benefits for “made with plants” there are lower production costs, less time to obtain the antigenic product, and more security.

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Daniel asserts that the logistics in transport and storage become more efficient since they do not require a refrigeration chain.

This project resumes an investigation that began in 2017, called Design of a Vaccine Through BioInformatics Against the virus of Dengue, Zika, and Chikungunya, at the UANL’s Institute of Biotechnology, which was presented at the National Symposium of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedicine and published on the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Biomedicine.

The term "edible vaccine" comes from being able to ingest, in this case, the fruit, and obtaining immunity against a pathogen, with the prior transformation of the tomato plant to which genetic information is transferred so that it generates antigens, the reason why, upon being ingested, the fruit will provide immunity.

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Edible vaccines allow us to obtain, in only one hectare, millions of doses in a cheaper and safer way” added the scientist.

Daniel Garza considers it would be possible to ingest genetically modified fruit that offers higher nutritional benefits, such as more vitamins, proteins, and minerals; however,  it would have to be dosed for pharmaceutical means, like any other drug.

Currently, the project is on an analysis stage: “Using the genomic and proteomic sequences of SARS-CoV-2 through bioinformatics tools has allowed us to identify the epitopes most likely to be vaccine candidates and which could not have been identified through conventional techniques,”

Daniel asserts that the COVID-19 contingency has forced many countries in the world to rethink the current legislation regarding Genetically Modified Organisms, mainly those focused on the generation of edible vaccines from transgenic plants.

As a biotechnologist, Daniel aims to show society the potential of this technology and contribute with solutions to the problems faced by humanity, “The future without biotechnology would be a mistake,” he concludes.
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