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Plant Molecular Factory

Project(s) under this topic should be industry driven and focus on the demonstration of innovative technologies for molecular farming approaches. Higher and lower plants or plant cells, or algae can be considered. Bottlenecks such as the optimization of gene expression, use of proper cell lines, and maximizing efficiency of downstream product purification may be considered. Project(s) could also encompass issues related to protein stability and degradation and/or improvements of bioreactor/containment design, and culture parameters. Furthermore, the authenticity challenge may be addressed. The techno-economic viability of the proposed concepts, the overall economic and environmental sustainability issues should also be critical elements and confirmed by LCA. To address properly regulatory compliance and approval and public acceptance issues, involvement and consultation with appropriate regulatory bodies and consumer and civil society groups (NGOs, end-user organisations etc) are necessary. This will create an efficient and cost-effective alternative methodology for the production of high value end-products. A strong participation of industry/SMEs should help contribute to the realization of the expected outcomes.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of an indicative amount of EUR 9 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Plant Molecular Factory is defined here as the use of plants or plant cells to produce high-value products such as proteins, peptides and bioactive secondary metabolites, particularly for pharmaceutical and medical/veterinary, diagnostic, agricultural and industrial applications, including strategies to engineer plants to allow better processing of biomass into such high-value products. The specific challenge consists in increasing the availability to end users, lowering the cost of end products by scaling-up efficient manufacturing and purification process (e.g. high expression yields, the recombinant product authenticity), shortening production cycles for necessary efficacy and achieving high product yield. For the successful implementation market related issues such as regulatory compliance and approval, public acceptance and engagement need to be fully addressed.

The project(s) shall contribute to the objective of improved competitiveness of European bioindustry, and be of benefit to users by allowing development of end-products with superior safety and economic parameters. This will be achieved by upgrading plant-based protein production platforms to the level of currently used and more advanced microbial or animal cell systems, opening thus full range of additional benefits arising from plant based production (scalability, absence of shared pathogens etc).

It is expected that action funded under this topic will advance the opportunity shown at research scale into demonstration scale, to allow the technology to become mature and fully economically competitive. This will be achieved by focusing on end-products with high value, by ensuring early industrial engagement and by addressing pertinent regulatory and public acceptance issues. The Technology Readiness Levels covered by the projects could range from 4 to 7.

It is expected that this action will create new opportunities for European bioindustries by increasing the application of bioactive molecules for the end product development and that it will allow an effective integration of research community, agriculture, bioprocessing industry and end-user representative groups.