Volume 17 Part 1 Article 1: Underground Drugs: Manufacture of Biopharmaceuticals in Mushrooms

Volume 17 Part 1 Article 1
Year 2008
Title: Underground Drugs: Manufacture of Biopharmaceuticals in Mushrooms
Author: C. Peter Romaine


Biotechnology has ushered in 21st century medicine, marked by the discovery and development of an array of new drugs for the treatment of an unprecedented number and diversity of human illnesses. Among this growing constellation of drugs are the complex therapeutic proteins (aka biopharmaceuticals and biologics), which include vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, enzymes, and hormones. Biologics represent only about 8% of all pharmaceutical sales, although as a sector their revenue growth has outpaced all other drug classes, with a projected market value of US$92 billion in 2011.

Protein-based drugs are difficult and expensive to manufacture, because they must be produced in living cells. There is a growing concern of a shortfall in the production capacity of traditional cell-culture systems amidst the rapidly flowing pipeline of new biologics. Further, animal-cell-based platforms pose a proven and potential source of human pathogenic contaminants (viruses and prions). Aside from the economic, capacity, and human-safety issues, the pharmaceutical industry is not constructed to respond rapidly with medical countermeasures to natural and anthropogenic public health events.

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