After AI robots for enforcing mandatory face mask rules and vaccination history based digital identity, now scientists in Mexico are growing genetically modified tomatoes as edible coronavirus vaccine. A research group at a Mexican university is using bioinformatics and computational genetic engineering to identify candidate antigens for a vaccine that can be expressed in tomato plants. Eating the fruit from these plants would then confer immunity against COVID-19.
Plants as Biofactories for Vaccines
A lesser-known approach to produce antigens and vaccines on a large scale is the use of plants as biofactories. The plants are genetically modified (Figure 1) to produce, for example, virus-like-particles (VLPs), which are structural proteins of the virus, or “multi-epitope” proteins, where different sequences of an antigen allow us to generate an immunizing and protective response in humans.
At the beginning of 2020, 97 experimental vaccines had been obtained with this methodology, including plant-grown antigens for HIV, polio, hepatitis B, rabies, HPV, cholera and tuberculosis, among other pathogens.