Native Australian plant may help develop disease-resistant crops—and a COVID-19 vaccine

Credit: QUT

A team from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) spearheaded the genome sequencing of an ancient Australian plant years before the COVID-19 pandemic broke. Now, the sequence is being used globally to develop a vaccine to fight against the deadly virus.

Nicotiana benthamiana is an ancient native tobacco plant found in Northern and Central Australia. Experts suggest that the plant may hold the key to growing crops that can withstand disease and climate change …. The QUT team identified N. benthamiana, or benth as the scientists call it, due to its potential to make larger quantities of high-quality vaccine and antibodies considering it has about twice the number of genes compared to the ordinary plant.

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The scientists sequenced the benth’s genome making it a roadmap for biologists and biotechnologists who are searching for ways to produce antibodies, vaccines and therapeutics against viruses like COVID-19.

Benth is now being used all over the world as the potential vaccine’s plant biofactory to develop protein-based products …. in bulk quantities at a low cost.

The availability of the benth genome sequence information is timely and the scientists are optimistic about reaching this new level of understanding of biofactories as the battle against COVID-19 progresses ….

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