Food In Canada

PlantForm, AAFC research project targets E. coli infection in pigs

Food in Canada Staff   

Food Safety Meat &Poultry AAFC E. coli food safety

PlantForm Corporation has teamed up with scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) and Western University to develop an edible antibody therapeutic that protects human and animal health by preventing E. coli 0157 infection in pigs.
The two-year project is supported by $150,000 through the Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative, created by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) to stimulate innovation in support of Ontario’s agri-food sector, food safety and rural communities. The Ontario Agri-Food Research Initiative is funded by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion commitment by federal-provincial-territorial governments.

The research project will use PlantForm’s tobacco-plant-based vivoXPRESS® platform to express therapeutic antibody fragments that target E. coli. The plants would then be given to pigs as a food additive. The researchers aim to show that antibodies in the plants will reduce E. coli infection and transmission by interacting with the animals’ natural defence systems to block the pathogen’s ability to colonize the gut wall and prevent shedding of E. coli in feces.

“We’re very pleased to be involved in this exciting project that aims to solve a huge problem for the livestock and food processing industries: how can we remove E. coli and other foodborne pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria and Campylobacter from the food chain without medical interventions that are often expensive and ineffective?” said PlantForm CEO Dr. Don Stewart.

“While this project is focused on E. coli, we aim to show that using our plant-based expression system for producing edible therapeutics provides the agri-food sector with a low-cost, effective method for preventing infection and transmission of a variety of enteric pathogens that impact animal and human health.”


“This project demonstrates how leading-edge research and innovation can improve the overall sustainability and competitiveness of the agri-food sector,” said the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. “Through strategic investments such as this, we are supporting enhancements in animal welfare and human health.”

“As part of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, Ontario’s Agri-Food Research Initiative invested $1.37 million in 11 innovative research projects like this one to advance farm animal health and welfare practices,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs. “Supporting agri-food research is key to developing new products, practices and services that help farmers be more competitive and strengthens Ontario’s agri food sector.”

This project builds upon previous research by AAFC scientist Dr. Rima Menassa aimed at developing veterinary vaccines and antibodies for E. coli and other pathogens as alternatives to treatment with antibiotics.

“Typically, E. coli infection does not cause any health problems for livestock; however, infected animals shed E. coli into the environment — and this has major public health consequences if the pathogen enters the food chain,” said Menassa, whose lab has identified an antibody that binds to E. coli and prevents it from colonizing epithelial cells lining the gut wall. “The goal of this project is to develop an easy and effective way to reduce or eliminate shedding of viable E. coli from pigs and break that cycle of infection and transmission.”

Stewart said this approach provides an effective way to deliver therapies through a simple feed additive that’s minimally processed, inexpensive, and easy to produce and deliver on a large scale.

“This project also demonstrates the versatility of our technology for producing a wide range of life-saving antibody drugs, protein drugs and vaccines,” said Stewart. “The vivoXPRESS® system provides a fast, low-cost and reliable method for producing safe, efficacious treatments for cancer, inflammatory diseases and other illnesses that not only affect human health, but animal health and welfare as well.”

About PlantForm Corporation (
PlantForm Corporation is a biopharmaceutical company focused on the rapid development and production of specialty antibody and protein drugs using the company’s proprietary vivoXPRESS® platform. The plant-based vivoXPRESS® system makes it easier, faster and less expensive to produce approved biologic drugs for approved and novel indications. The technology platform originated at the University of Guelph through the work of Chris Hall as one of the company’s founders. PlantForm has an expanding portfolio of patents in seven families to protect both the core platform technology and products in development.

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