Bio-reactors of the future


Our grow room is an indoor hydroponic system that ensures we have complete control over environmental factors such as  temperature and humidity.  Our LED grow lights enable us to provide our plants with the right light spectrum throughout their different growth phases.  Our plants are grown in rock-wool blocks in a soil-free system and are watered with a specially designed hydroponic nutrient mixture. By controlling the nutrient solution we feed the plants, we ensure  optimal growing conditions and year round production  Plant production is constantly being optimised through continuous monitoring of all variables.  Hydroponic systems are able to  increase plant growth per square metre by up to eight times compared to outdoor systems.

Our bio-reactors are called Nicotiana Benthamiana - a close relative of tobacco. It  is the most widely used experimental host in plant virology, due mainly to the large number of diverse plant viruses that can successfully infect it.  N. benthamiana is also susceptible to a wide variety of other plant-pathogenic agents, such as bacteria, making it the cornerstone of host-pathogen research. Because it can be genetically transformed and regenerates fairly well, its the perfect host for virus-induced gene silencing or transient protein expression. 

We have the capacity to grow around  45 000 plants annually with an average yield of just on 1mg of purified protein per plant.  This varies slightly depending on the gene of interest. Each week our system can produce an average of  900mg of protein.  We grow our plants to six weeks before they're ready for infiltration. The advantaged of a plant-based expression system is that in the week before infiltration, can decide what protein, or proteins,  we want to produce.  We make infiltrate several different genes or focus on one. From this point it takes an average of two week of purification and a week of testing and validation.  Within three to four weeks we can have final purified protein ready to deliver.

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