• A team of scientists from Scotland have genetically modified chickens to produce human proteins in their eggs.
  • The idea is to bring down the costs of producing protein-based drugs used for treating cancer.
  • Three eggs were enough to produce a clinically-relevant dose of the drug.
  • It’s a proof-of-principal and not yet ready for humans.

A team of scientists from Scotland-based biotech company Roslin Technology and Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, have genetically modified chickens to produce human proteins in their eggs.

Eggs laid by their gene-edited chickens contained elevated levels of cancer-treating proteins in their egg whites, all part of their eggcelent idea to bring down the costs of producing protein-based drugs, such as Avastin and Herceptin, used for treating cancer and other diseases.

The team says for some of these proteins, the only way to produce them at high enough quality involves cell culture techniques in mammals, which are expensive and have low yields. Other methods require complex purification systems and additional processing techniques, which raise costs.

Better yet, the study observed no adverse effects on the chickens themselves. 

Photo by Mai Moeslund on Unsplash
Photo by Mai Moeslund on Unsplash

Just three eggs were enough to produce a clinically-relevant dose of the drug. As chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year, researchers say their approach could be more cost-effective than other production methods for some important drugs.

The researchers say their new approach is more efficient, produces better yields, and is more cost-effective than previous attempts. It’s not ready for patients yet, but the study offers proof-of-principle that the system is feasible and could be adapted to produce other therapeutic proteins.

“We are excited to develop this technology to its full potential, not just for human therapeutics in the future but also in the fields of research and animal health,” said Dr Lissa Herron, head of the avian biopharming business unit at Roslin Technologies.

Their research was published in peer reviewed journal BMC Biotechnology.

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