Israeli startup CollPlant has created a way to harvest collagen that is compatible with human cells from yes—you read that right—tobacco plants.
An Israeli startup called CollPlant has introduced an ingenious way to utilize the plant proteins in tobacco in order to create a synthetic collagen, comparable to that produced by the human body. The collagen that the company has developed can be used for tissue repair for a wide range of scaffolds, such as sheets, sponges, gels, meshes, microsphere and compounds. The company hopes to fill a gap largely unmet by the medical community.
The super protein
Collagen is a primary building block for the human body and has long been a vital protein in the medical field. Essential for tissue repair, it is used to treat burn victims, heal severe wounds, by surgeons, to fill bone voids in cancer patients, fix heart valves, and more. Until now, medical professionals wishing to acquire this protein would have to rely on inferior sources and have not found a solution completely safe that’s sustainable.
“Collagen is used in about a thousand important medical products, but until now manufacturers have had to derive it from pigs, cows or human corpses,” says CollPlant CEO Yehiel Tal.
Tal went on to say that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other international health regulatory agencies have expressed serious safety concerns with respect to the use of both animal and human corpse tissues, which are today’s common sources for harvesting collagen.
Beginning with wound management and orthopedics products, CollPlant plans to offer solutions for soft and hard tissue repair in diverse applications. The company’s pioneering plant based production system offers what is currently the only source of what they call “virgin collagen,” which is essentially collagen that has yet to been hosted on another living being, such as a human or an animal.
To the FDA and beyond
CollPlant recently received FDA approval for their collagen growing methods, which is a huge step for the Ness Ziona based startup. In June of this year the company also received a US Patent for their method of producing human collagen in tobacco plants, which significantly advances them towards being able to launch their product for sale in the US market.
“The US represents one of the company’s strategic target markets, and we see the strengthening and consolidation of our intellectual property in this territory as a significant achievement,” Tal said.
Though the future of CollPlant may lead into the US, the now remains in Israel. The company will embark on a clinical trial, hosted through one of Israel’s healthcare provider (Maccabi) where patients who suffer from wounds will receive a single application of Flowable Gel and will then be followed for 4 weeks. The results will be analyzed to determine how well the body repaired the wound with the CollPlant collagen boost; whether the repair process was faster than when not using the CollPlant product, and whether the product had any side effects. If results are what Collplant expects them to be, the company could get approval to go to market in Israel and Europe as early as next year, said Tal in a Times of Israel article.
The company’s Collagen product not only holds the highest level of compatibility for humans, but the supply is fast growing and virtually endless.
“The leaves of a single tobacco plant can yield about 100 grams of tobacco (for cigarettes) or about a gram of genetically-engineered human collagen,” says Prof. Oded Shoseyov, CollPlant’s co-founder and the inventor of the technology. “And from a single gram of collagen it is possible to produce, for example, about three injections of highly-valuable wound healing gel for patients suffering from diabetic ulcers.”
Ebola? No problem. CollPlant’s method could work for that, too
As if the aforementioned medical applications weren’t impressive enough, CollPlant has also joined the fight against Ebola.
In addition to being utilized for synthesizing human collagen, it appears that tobacco plants could be used to help create an Ebola vaccine. Though CollPlant is not spearheading this operation itself, the company’s main brain Oded Shoseyov is shedding much of the information on using tobacco plants for the development of recombinant proteins.
“We were the first company in the world to use tobacco plants to do large-scale manufacturing of human proteins, and to receive EU permission to market tobacco-synthesized human elements,” Shoseyov said.
Several American companies are using the information they can glean from Shoseyoy and CollPlant to developed a tobacco-synthesized vaccine. The cocktail they created has been used on several Ebola victims in Liberia so far, with mixed results.
Whatever the application may be, there’s no question that CollPlant’s methods will lead many successes in the medical field. Who knew tobacco plants could hold such production properties.
Collplant was founded in 2004. In addition to the patent on its method of production of collagen in plants, CollPlant also has patents protecting its core technology in Australia, China, the EU, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and Singapore.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock/ Tobacco plant for disease testing