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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014 (2014), Article ID 256135, 16 pages
Research Article

Manufacturing Economics of Plant-Made Biologics: Case Studies in Therapeutic and Industrial Enzymes

1Intrucept Biomedicine LLC, 2695 13th Street, Sacramento, CA 95818, USA
2Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, University of California, 1 Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA

Received 7 December 2013; Accepted 28 February 2014; Published 29 May 2014

Academic Editor: Qiang “Shawn” Chen

Copyright © 2014 Daniel Tusé et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Production of recombinant biologics in plants has received considerable attention as an alternative platform to traditional microbial and animal cell culture. Industrially relevant features of plant systems include proper eukaryotic protein processing, inherent safety due to lack of adventitious agents, more facile scalability, faster production (transient systems), and potentially lower costs. Lower manufacturing cost has been widely claimed as an intuitive feature of the platform by the plant-made biologics community, even though cost information resides within a few private companies and studies accurately documenting such an advantage have been lacking. We present two technoeconomic case studies representing plant-made enzymes for diverse applications: human butyrylcholinesterase produced indoors for use as a medical countermeasure and cellulases produced in the field for the conversion of cellulosic biomass into ethanol as a fuel extender. Production economics were modeled based on results reported with the latest-generation expression technologies on Nicotiana host plants. We evaluated process unit operations and calculated bulk active and per-dose or per-unit costs using SuperPro Designer modeling software. Our analyses indicate that substantial cost advantages over alternative platforms can be achieved with plant systems, but these advantages are molecule/product-specific and depend on the relative cost-efficiencies of alternative sources of the same product.