What if you could eat the cure?

A University of Ottawa plant biologist and a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital are researching a plant-based, edible vaccine for the novel coronavirus.
By: Heather Marie Connors
June 27, 2020
Photo: Monique Power

Plant biologist Allyson MacLean’s research involves something called “mucosal immunity” - and it’s important because this novel virus enters the body through the mucosal surface of the respiratory system. Her work entails injecting bacteria into plant tissues, causing the plant to produce viral proteins. When digested by humans, the hope is that these proteins are absorbed by the gut and produce immunity.

While there are already multiple COVID-19 vaccines in human trials, MacLean believes that it is too soon to stop exploring alternatives.

"Plant-based vaccines are better for the developing world. They're cheaper to produce. They don't need … to be refrigerated for long periods of time."

Working with MacLean is The Ottawa Hospital’s John Bell. Bell has been working on vaccine development since the beginning of the pandemic. In April he received a $250,000 research grant from the Thistledown Foundation to apply his research in virus-based cancer treatments to vaccine development for COVID.

"This project is pairing up a cancer researcher who uses viruses to tackle cancer and a plant biologist who normally studies the way microorganisms interact with plants," MacLean told CBC. "We're both stretching out of our comfort zones."

Source: CBC Ottawa


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