Somewhere near Paso Robles, John Howard and his team will be harvesting corn for the next few weeks. The exact location of the field is confidential, because they worry “eco-terrorists” might vandalize their stuff.
It’s not just any old corn – it’s been genetically modified to manufacture its own trypsin, an enzyme many animals produce to help digest protein. Howard and his lab staff grind down and process the kernels into a powder. The resulting product, TrypZean, resembles cocaine more than corn.
TrypZean, an animal-free, synthetic product, has the potential to replace trypsin, an ingredient used to activate or inactivate viruses in vaccines. It’s also used in insulin and other medical products.
“The FDA would like the pharmaceutical industry to move away from animals, so they don’t bring in viral contaminants,” he says.
Howard and his San Luis Obispo-based company, Applied Biotechnology Institute (ABI), have been developing TrypZean for about 20 years.
Howard presented TrypZean to the county Agricultural Advisory Committee July 23, then bought a piece of ag land near Lockwood, where he anticipates growing about 20 acres of the genetically modified (GM) corn.
“The land is too expensive to grow regular corn,” Howard says. “Our crop is a little more valuable, so we’re hoping to be able to handle the extra expense. And this also keeps it out of the corn belt.”
Read full, original article: Monterey County is poised to get its first GM crop: corn for pharmaceuticals