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Alternative to Chinese Hamster Ovary Cells: PlantForm

In the world of medicine, making drugs can be complex and costly. But what if there was a way to make them faster, cheaper, just as effective, and animal-free? The prevalence of Chinese Hamster Ovary (CHO) cells in biologic manufacturing raises concerns for Alpha-gal Syndrome (AGS) patients due to potential reactivity to glycoforms containing galactose. This adds complexity to drug development and safety. Guaranteeing the absence of animal-derived components in the final product is challenging, impacting vegans, certain religious groups, and AGS patients. That's where PlantForm comes in. We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Don Stewart, CEO of PlantForm. His insights shed light on PlantForm's mission, vision, and commitment to revolutionizing biopharmaceuticals. 

What is the story behind launching PlantForm?

It all started at the University of Guelph in Canada, where Dr. Christopher Hall had a brilliant idea: to use plants to make medicine. This idea led to the creation of PlantForm in 2008. They developed a special way of using plants to make important drugs and vaccines, called the vivoXPRESS® platform.

What is the key product or service?

Their product pipeline includes biosimilar versions of popular drugs like Lucentis® and Keytruda®. Their subsidiary, AntoXa Corporation, is working on medical defenses against biological and chemical threats, using PlantForm's manufacturing platform for products like ricin antidotes and other defense-related treatments. They also offer Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) services to help other companies with their drug development.

For those who might not be familiar with biopharming, could you break down the process in simpler terms? In other words, how would you explain biopharming to someone who is new to the concept?

Plant molecular farming, or biopharming, is revolutionizing how we use plants for medicine. Traditionally, medicines were made by extracting substances from plants. For example, aspirin came from willow tree bark. Now, with plant biotechnology, we can modify plants to produce medicines directly. This includes antibodies, therapeutics, and vaccines, all made within the plant itself. It's a new way to harness plants' potential for better healthcare. See more information here.

In what specific ways does the vivoXPRESS® platform give PlantForm a competitive edge over traditional production systems, and how has this technology demonstrated an advantage in terms of production speed, scalability, and cost-effectiveness?

PlantForm's vivoXPRESS® platform is superior to mammalian and bacterial cell cultures for making protein drugs because it offers:

  • Quick development (producing drugs in just six weeks)

  • Versatility

  • Low costs

  • Easy scalability

  • Animal-free production, suitable for Vegan, Halal, and Kosher requirements

  • Improved safety, reducing contamination risks

  • Capability to make complex molecules

PlantForm has shown it can produce drugs five to ten times cheaper than traditional methods.

How does PlantForm's plant-based expression system align with current industry trends and position the company as an innovative leader in the biopharmaceutical market?

Pressure from stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry demands cost reduction. PlantForm's technology offers affordable production of large molecule drugs and accelerates candidate selection, addressing key industry needs with its vivoXPRESS® platform.

Which company/companies would benefit the most from a partnership with PlantForm? 

PlantForm's technology is in demand by companies and governments looking for more affordable and high-quality products. It's especially useful for making two types of drugs: biosimilars (which are similar to existing biological drugs) and emergency "countermeasures" medications. Biosimilars help make medicine more affordable after the original patents expire. PlantForm's method is cost-effective, making it easier for companies to enter the market and for governments to stockpile medicines for emergencies, like pandemics or terrorist attacks, to protect people's health.

Is there a notable partnership or project in the pipeline that you are most excited about?
  1. Partnership with SwiftPharma, Belgium: They'll use our technology to develop, make, and sell new drugs worldwide. SwiftPharma will also manufacture antibodies and proteins for our product lineup. This includes making biosimilar Keytruda® using our special systems and materials.

  2. Partnership with Fiocruz: We've been working with Bio-Manguinhos, a part of Fiocruz and Brazil's Ministry of Health, since 2021. Together, we're developing a biosimilar version of Keytruda®, an important cancer drug. This will save money for Brazil's Ministry of Health and other healthcare providers around the world.

  3. Collagen product partnership with 3D BioFibR, Canada: We've joined forces with 3DBioFibR from Canada to develop 3D BioFibR’s unique and innovative method for making human collagen fibers. These fibers will match or even surpass the strength of natural collagen in the body.

Amidst the complexities of leading a groundbreaking biopharmaceutical company, we'd love to know—outside the realm of biotechnology, what's a hobby or interest you have that brings balance to your life? Whether it's a favorite book, a unique skill, or a passion project, we'd love to hear about the more personal side of Dr. Don Stewart.

Don has volunteered for many years as a Board Member and President of BGC St. Albans Club. Founded in 1949 with just 25 boys, it now serves over 3,000 children and youth across metropolitan Toronto. We offer a wide range of programs, from sports and development to computer labs and music recording.

What else would you like to share with us?

We are delighted to be associated with VeganMed as we advance our technology and products to support the common goals of  the development of a safer, kinder and more inclusive world.


PlantForm's remarkable journey embodies the intersection of scientific breakthroughs, strategic collaborations, and a steadfast commitment to enhancing societal welfare. As we forge ahead in advancing biopharmaceutical standards, PlantForm remains steadfast in its commitment to producing high-value biopharmaceuticals in an environmentally and socially responsible manner to improve the quality of life and survival of patients with cancer and other critical illnesses. We are honored to collaborate with visionary partners who share our vision, driving innovation and progress toward a brighter and animal-free future for all.


Disclaimer: The product and/or information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We do not lab test the products to confirm that they are free from animal ingredients, and it is possible that the formulation and ingredients could have changed. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product. The information provided in this post is accurate and up to date as of the date it was written. However, please note that circumstances and facts may change over time, and new information may become available that could alter the accuracy or relevance of the content. We encourage readers to verify and cross-reference any information provided here with trusted sources or consult relevant professionals for the most current and accurate updates.


Looking for certified and verified animal-free products?

Thank you for your awareness and concern for animal-derived ingredients!

As a reminder, please comment on our FDA Citizen Petition, requesting clear labeling of animal-derived ingredients in medications. Together, we can make a difference.

If you have any further questions about ingredients in your medicines and supplements, feel free to reach out to the VeganMed team!

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