Next-Generation Medicines: The Promise of Plant Cell-Based Alkaloid Production

Authors: Martin Trinker and Janos Bindics
In the vast landscape of pharmaceuticals, plant-derived compounds, also called alkaloids, have long held a significant place. Many of them are first choice medicines to treat cancer, pain, malaria, and dementia. Production of these essential compounds by large still relies on field-grown plant material and chemical extraction. The lack of alternative production platforms makes supply chains of alkaloid-based medication vulnerable and dependent on environmental and socio-economic factors. To overcome current limitations, acib is in the forefront to develop a scalable, bioreactor-based technology to produce high-value plant alkaloids through a plant cell-based technology. Therefore, we are looking for partners to join our forces to revolutionize the production of plant alkaloids.

The Power of Plant Alkaloids

Alkaloids are a diverse group of naturally occurring compounds found in plants, with a wide range of therapeutic properties. These bioactive molecules have been invaluable in the treatment of various diseases and conditions. The most prominent examples are paclitaxel (extracted from the Pacific yew tree cells) and vinblastine (from Madagascar periwinkle) used in chemotherapy to fight a wide range of cancer. Morphine and codeine (from opium poppy) are potent analgesics essential in pain management, while artemisinin (from sweet wormwood) and quinine (from Cinchona tree) are effective drugs to cure malaria. Another alkaloid vincamine (from lesser periwinkle) is proved to be effective in treating vascular brain disorders such as stroke and dementia.

Challenges in Traditional Alkaloid Production

To utilize the pharmaceutical potential of plant alkaloids production must address two main challenges. Firstly, most alkaloids are extracted from filed-grown plant material therefore production seasonal and yield is affected by environmental factors such as weather, pests, diseases, and drought. Secondly, as cultivation of the source plant is limited to a certain a climate transportation is impacted by geopolitical instability and can limit the availability of essential medicine, particularly in developing countries. To mitigate the above risk factors production technologies independent of plant cultivation were under intense investigation. Despite the effort most plant alkaloids are still produced in field-cultivated plants as the sole available technology.

The Promise of Plant Cell-Based Technology

The use of cultivated, genetically improved plant cells is a novel, promising avenue for alkaloid production. Its main advantages are that host cells naturally genetically encode the entire biosynthetic pathway of an alkaloid. Cultured plant cells provide a scalable technology compatible with already available bioreactors. Moreover, the production is contained, allows reproducible results, and reduces the reliance on transportation. Additionally, a plant cell-based technology offers potential for higher yields and more effective extraction processes compared to current, whole plant-based technologies, leading to reduced ecological and carbon footprint of the industry.

acib's Innovative Approach:

acib is with Dr. János Bindics and Prof. Dr. Johannes Buyel at the forefront of developing plant cell-based technology for alkaloid production. Using genetically improved plant cells, acib aims to enhance alkaloid biosynthesis beyond what is possible in the traditional field grown plants. By leveraging disruptive technology, acib’s approach promises to revolutionize the production of plant-derived alkaloids, making them more accessible and sustainable. Moreover, the scalability and bioreactor compatibility of this technology offer the potential for large-scale production, further bolstering its impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

Joining Forces for Progress:

The journey towards revolutionizing alkaloid production is a collaborative effort, requiring the expertise and dedication of researchers, industry partners, and stakeholders alike. Explore our project offer and connect with acib, to gain access to our technology for integrating plant cell-based alkaloid production into pharmaceutical pipelines.

The Future of Plant-Derived Medicines:

As the demand for sustainable and accessible pharmaceuticals continues to grow, the importance of innovative approaches to drug production cannot be overstated. Plant cell-based technology represents a promising solution to the challenges inherent in traditional alkaloid extraction methods. With acib and innovative company partners leading the way, new plant-derived medicines are providing hope for a healthier and more sustainable future.
Picture credits: acib