Plants produce a vast diversity of specialized and bioactive compounds. For thousands of years, mankind has used extracts from plants containing bioactive compounds as part of traditional herbal medicines. More recently anticancer properties of some bioactive compounds have been discovered and are now leads for new pharmaceutical drugs to combat cancers. In DrugTissueCult we focus on two bioactive compounds Thapsigargin and Withaferin A with anticancer properties. Both are of a pharmaceutical and economical value, but are difficult to obtain from their native source and very expensive to make through chemical synthesis. Thapsigargin, is a sesquiterpenoid found in Thapsia garganica plants and Withaferin A, is a triterpenoid found in Withania somnifera plants. The aim of DrugTissueCult is to generate plant tissue culture lines that produce very high amounts of Thapsigargin or Withaferin A. The industrial partner Alkion Biopharma has a patented technology that will be used to create a large collection of plant tissue cultures, which will be selected for significant production of Thapsigargin and Withaferin A. The academic partner, University of Copenhagen, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences has an in-depth understanding of plant biochemistry, plants biosynthesis of specialized and bioactive compounds, and how to utilize this knowledge in biotechnological applications. Investigation of how Thapsigargin and Withaferin A are biosynthesized and identification of the genes behind, will lead to an overall understanding of terpenoid biosynthesis in plants. This will also facilitate the creation of tissue culture lines where selected genes are up-regulated to further enhance the production of Thapsigargin and Withaferin A. The complementary combination of the two partners provides the necessary knowledge and expertise to train two ESRs in a high impact research project using divergent training methods in industrial and academic settings.
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